Cabin luggage mix-up costs traveler £11,000 on Antarctic cruise

“On Sunday 12th February 2023, I flew out of town to Manchester Airport for the holiday of a lifetime,” says Valerie Coleshaw.

“By Monday 13th April I was home for breakfast, without luggage and in complete despair.”

Miss Coleshaw, from Bolton, lost her £11,000 Antarctic cruise with Hurtigruten (now HX) after cabin crew on a KLM flight from Manchester to Amsterdam asked her to check in her cabin luggage “because the plane was really full “.

Dream trip: Fridtjof Nansen, Antarctic cruise ship (HX)

Dream trip: Fridtjof Nansen, Antarctic cruise ship (HX)

She says she was told her hand luggage would be returned to her in Amsterdam, where she was to be transferred to Buenos Aires and on to the southern Argentine port of Ushuaia.

“I’ve heard of this happening before. So after double checking that I would pick it up in Amsterdam, I agreed,” she says.

“When I arrived in Amsterdam, my case was not on the roundabout. I was advised to go straight to the boarding gate for Buenos Aires and he would be waiting for me there. Was not.

“After hours of badgering the staff, my hand luggage was nowhere to be found. My asthma spray was in there.”

She explained to the ground staff that her medication was missing. They told the captain of the KLM plane, who decided that she would not be able to make the 7,100 mile trip without the asthma spray.

“I was left with a member of staff who said she would try to put me on another flight the next day. I realized I would have the same problem without my hand luggage.

“I couldn’t contact Hurtigruten because all the paperwork was in my hand luggage.

“I had never experienced anything like this before, I felt humiliated and confused. I was given hotel vouchers and a flight back to Manchester the following morning.”

KLM says that when passengers are asked to check-in cabin baggage, they are asked to remove valuables and items needed during their flights as hand luggage is forwarded to the destination.

Ms Coleshaw disputes that this happened and says she was told the cabin baggage would be waiting for her at Amsterdam airport.

“I never parted with my hand luggage but went with the request – even checking four times before I boarded the flight to Amsterdam that it would be waiting for me,” she says.

“I had no extra handbag to store my documents, tickets and asthma spray. I only had a mobile phone, credit card and passport in my pocket.

“No one has ever advised me to remove my medication, tickets, holiday booking, emergency contact details and so on. If they did, I would have brought my hand luggage on board.”

KLM gave Ms Coleshaw a full refund for the value of the flights as well as a £500 voucher for future travel.

“It strongly suggests to me that they understood the implications of my situations traveling on the plane without me,” she says.

However, the airfare was only a small part of the total cost of the holiday. Miss Coleshaw paid Hurtigruten £10,660 for the package, and spent hundreds of pounds more on preparations for the trip including travel insurance, guidebooks and Antarctic clothing she never got to wear.

Under the Package Travel Regulations, a holiday organizer – in this case Hurtigruten (now HX) – is responsible for providing the trip as booked, including contracted services such as flights.

Normally, if an airline does not fly a passenger in time to start their holiday, the customer would expect a full refund.

But the cruise company does not accept that KLM is at fault, and is therefore refusing to return the money.

Instead, HX (formerly Hurtigruten) is offering £8,500 for another cruise as a goodwill gesture.

Miss Coleshaw describes the offer as “honorable but unusable”. She tried to use some of the credit on a cruise in West Africa, but the company canceled the trip before departure.

She says her circumstances have changed significantly since the loss of the cruise, leaving her unable to plan any similar trip. She suffered a serious shoulder injury, and her 95-year-old mother’s health has deteriorated.

A spokesperson for HX said: “We are disappointed that we have not been able to resolve this issue to date. Our guest experience team has been in direct contact with Mr Coleshaw over the past several months and have worked hard to try and resolve this situation.

“After a thorough review of this booking, we have provided ‘Future Cruise Credit’, equal to the value of the sailing and available for use on all our itineraries around the world. This exceeds our standard cancellation policy and has been provided by our team as a sincere gesture of goodwill.

“Furthermore, we have also given the opportunity to extend the booking period until the end of 2024, for any cruise journey departing until the end of 2025.

“We remain fully committed to making this option available to Miss Coleshaw. Our dedicated guest experience team will continue to seek a suitable resolution to this matter, consistent with what has already been provided, and we hope this can be achieved soon.”

Miss Coleshaw said: “I chose Hurtigruten for two reasons: one, I had traveled with them before and it was excellent; and two, the flights were taken into account so I felt I would have peace of mind if a connecting flight was delayed.

“I didn’t cancel my ‘Lifetime Holiday’ – but I realized that I wouldn’t be able to travel any further without medication and everything in my hand luggage. I asked several times at the boarding gate about collecting my hand luggage, and was told it would be waiting for me.”

She says the pursuit of the refund is “taking a toll on my health and well-being”.

“I’m starting to give up on the challenge and quit, but there’s so much money in it as well as the broken dream.”

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