5. Better access in hotels
Access is not only an issue that affects wheelchair users.Anyone who occasionally walks with a stick, struggles with a long flight of stairs or faces other difficulties with mobility, sight or hearing knows how challenging travel can sometimes be. Hotels are a particular problem. Even when they ostensibly offer “accessible” rooms, these are often over-medicalised and joyless, with inferior views or none at all. Many don’t have step-free access all the way from street level, and there can be basic problems with simple things such as lighting, affecting those with poor sight. And as well as physical design problems, there are issues with staff training – evidenced by a lack of understanding and sympathy for guests with special needs. So this year we will again be reporting on these issues, and, as a major plank of our campaign for improvements, we will be supporting the Bespoke Access Awards – an international competition founded by hotel owner Robin Sheppard to improve the design of buildings and the education and attitude of staff (access.bespokehotels.com, entries close Feb 27).
6. No more unfair single supplements
As the number of solo travellers increases exponentially year on year, why does the mainstream travel industry continue to base its business model on people who travel in twos?
A hotelier may not be happy to hand out double rooms for single occupancy in high season, but tour operators should be pushing for a lot more no-supplement deals at quieter times of the year. Even more insidious is the practice of charging a single supplement for what turns out to be a single bed in a box room and a shower in a cupboard. This happens regularly on coach touring holidays that attract a high proportion of single customers, especially in places such as the Italian lakes. This should be outlawed and companies fined for non-compliance.
Cruising has a similarly poor reputation for overcharging customers travelling alone. It’s good to see single cabins on newer ships but there should be more on older ones. It is also encouraging to find tour operators increasingly offering single occupancy deals on some departures, notably on river cruises. But there are still too many ships asking solo cruisers for more than double that paid by a couple, as happened to a Telegraph reader trying to book a Tui cruise package to the Canary Islands last autumn. We don’t buy the argument that there’s a revenue loss in the bar and on excursions. A solo traveller is more likely to be sociable, so don’t penalise them before they even step on board.
7. Free correction of mistakes
Most airline bookings are now keyed into systems online by customers themselves and one of the most frequent problems we hear about from readers is the cost of correcting minor errors – a spelling mistake in a name is the most common. The way the system should work is that if the mistake is small – usually involving fewer than three characters – airlines will usually agree to add what’s called a “check-in remark” for no extra charge so that the discrepancy with the passport does not cause a problem at boarding. But some agents continue to argue, wrongly, that this can’t be done and make passengers pay for an entirely new ticket (without refunding the original) simply to correct what is clearly a genuine typing error. For more serious mistakes – where a customer has used an abbreviated first name or forgotten that a child has a different surname to their own on their passport – most airlines will also insist that a new ticket is purchased.
Airlines and their agents claim this stance is to do with security. It’s not. It’s about making money. Aviation bodies such as IATA and the CAA should take a firm stand on this and insist that airlines and their agents find a way to correct or accept all genuine mistakes in passenger names – even if they insist on charging an administration fee for the service. (to be continued).