Hailsham: Blind holidaymaker wins pay out from tour firm

Paul Millcross who is registered blind and won damages from Thomson Holidays after being left stranded at Gatwick Airport. Feb 14th 2012 E07057N

Paul Millcross who is registered blind and won damages from Thomson Holidays after being left stranded at Gatwick Airport. Feb 14th 2012 E07057N

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A BLIND holidaymaker left stranded at Gatwick Airport on Christmas Eve by a long delay is celebrating winning a compensation battle with a holiday company which was reluctant to pay out.

Paul Millross, 39, of the Solway, returned from a dream holiday in the Maldives on Christmas Eve 2010 but was left high and dry by Thomson airlines following a four-and-a-half-hour delay.

He said the previous day he had been warned there could be delays due to snow at the airport but he was assured by a Thomson holiday rep that he would not be abandoned. Mr Millross said, “I was very worried about getting back from Gatwick because of the lack of public transport on Christmas Eve but I was told quite clearly (at the resort and at the airport) that it wasn’t Thomson’s policy to leave passengers stranded and they would get me home.”

However, when Mr Millross eventually arrived back in England, following the long delay, at 9.45pm, he had missed the last train home and there was no-one from Thomson to help. He was advised by an airport manager to take a taxi and keep the receipt then contact Thomson for compensation. Mr Millross did this and asked Thomson to reimburse him with the £100 taxi fare. But the company said it would not reimburse the money.

Following an exchange of correspondence he was told in May, “I understand this isn’t the outcome you’re hoping for but I must make my decision on all facts available to be (sic) rather than on any personal sympathy.”

Mr Millross said, “They knew I was registered blind and I had made that clear.

“But at no point did I say because I’m blind can you make an exception and bend the rules for me. I didn’t want sympathy, I just wanted them to do what was right.”

Mr Millross was so angry with Thomson’s decision he decided to take them to court, filing a claim at Eastbourne County Court in December 2011.

Thomson told the court it intended to contest the case.

But in January Mr Millross received a letter from Thomson’s legal department which said they had “reviewed” the claim and decided to settle up. Mr Millross was eventually paid £100 and the £35 court fee.

He said, “It took them 13 months to do what they should have done in the first place.”

A spokeswoman for Thomson said, “Thomson Airways can confirm that flight TOM043 travelling from Male airport in the Maldives to London Gatwick on the 24 December 2010, was delayed due to adverse weather conditions in the UK. We appreciate that flight delays can be frustrating for customers and would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused.

“We would also like to reassure our customers that such delays are only made when absolutely necessary. As a gesture of goodwill, the additional transport costs that were incurred by Mr Millross because of the flight delay have now been compensated to him.

“However, we would ask Mr. Millross and any other customers affected by flight delays to contact their insurance company directly regarding compensation for onward travel costs, as in this situation responsibility lies with them.”