Thompson Holidays Drops the Ball on Accessibility

Matt Anderson had every reason to believe his Cape Verde vacation would be a relaxing retreat for him and his partner Shelly Grainger. After all, Anderson booked a wheelchair-accessible room through Thompson Holidays. The British travel operator was quick to take Anderson’s £2,800, but when the couple arrived in Africa they were informed that the accessible room was only “requested” and not “reserved” for him.

Sound familiar? We used to have that problem in the US too, until the Department of Justice released regulations that require hotels to block the accessible rooms upon reservation. That way, the accessible room is taken out of inventory and it’s not given to another guest. And it’s a very good law.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case for Anderson. The hotel did try to find him an accessible room at another property, but Anderson was later informed that there were no accessible rooms on the island.  Ultimately they were able to give him a ground floor room, but it was far from accessible. His wheelchair wouldn’t fit through the narrow bathroom door so he had to use the toilet in the lobby. And even if he could crawl into the bathroom in his guest room, there was a large step into the shower. So he went without a shower all week, and washed off the best he could in the public restroom sink. That’s a far cry from a relaxing vacation!

Anderson contacted Thompson Holidays when he returned home, and even though he received an apology, he also received this curt response from the company.

“It is important to highlight the difference between your actual holiday booking, and the requests you have made. A request is actually not part of your holiday contract with us and we are unable to guarantee any of these for you. Of course we will do everything possible to meet these requests, however, this is not always possible.”

I find this response – and their attitude – completely unacceptable. A request for an accessible room is a physical need, not a luxury, and it should be honored at all costs. And if for whatever reason, an accessible room is not available, the client should be notified, and given the option of a refund or alternate dates.

Thompson Holidays totally dropped the ball on this one. So how do you avoid the same fate as Anderson? My only advice to you is to choose a company that understands the needs of disabled travelers, instead of one that treats the need for an accessible room as a request.

And for the record, this isn’t the first complaint I’ve received on this company.