Couple spend night in car when they find their holiday apartment shut

Simon Calder

A couple in their sixties spent the first night of their holiday in Sardinia sleeping in a car beside a beach.

Georgina Lewis and Derek Nicholls, from Shropshire, booked a trip to the Italian island with the online travel agent Loveholidays.

The couple arrived at Olbia on schedule at 7.45pm on 2 May. They picked up a rental car and arrived an hour later at their booked apartment – only to find a notice saying the reception was closed from 8pm to 9.30am the following morning.

Ms Lewis, former director of Wolverhampton Swimming School, said: “We rang the emergency number on the door but got no answer.

“We then called the Loveholidays emergency number a couple of times but were told they could not contact anyone.”

The company disputes this version of events, saying that Loveholidays was alerted to the issue just before 10pm. An agent contacted the service provider, a “bed bank” called HotelBeds, and called the couple back at 10.15pm to advise that a solution was being sought.

Loveholidays said the couple were called again shortly before midnight and were advised to check into an adjacent apartment complex.

“The customer advised that they were also going to look for their own accommodation for the evening and we didn’t hear anything back from them,” said the company.

Loveholidays also says that a member of its staff made another call at 3.16am “to check on them and advising them to check in to the alternative accommodation for the night but they said they opted to sleep in the car”.

Ms Lewis told The Independent: “We were miles from anywhere and all the hotels were shut. There was nowhere open.”

The couple parked their small Fiat rental car close to the beach, and tried to sleep. The next morning they returned to the booked apartment only to find that major building work was going on, with pneumatic drills being used.

Ms Lewis said: “The lady on reception said that they were not open properly till June.”

Eventually, they say, Loveholidays called with a new accommodation option at 4.30pm on day two. They declined it because by then they had made their own arrangements.

The company said: “We did not have the opportunity to offer alternative accommodation, at this time, as they advised that they had already checked out and booked alternative accommodation themselves.”

Under the Package Travel Regulations, Loveholidays is responsible for delivering the booked holiday – or making suitable alternatives available.

The travel firm told the couple on their holiday confirmation: “We do not create or organise package holidays.”

But it told The Independent: “Loveholidays can confirm that this booking is covered by the Package Travel Regulations.

Regarding the original problem of the apartment complex being closed, the firm said: ”The complaint has been logged and is being investigated with the accommodation supplier.”

Loveholidays said: “We will be in touch with Mr Nicholls shortly to find a way to resolve this issue to his satisfaction.”

The couple say they were initially offered £15 in compensation, which then rose to £20.