Recent Thomas Cook headlines surrounding the death of two young children in Corfu nine years ago have made grim reading. That image of the dilapidated boiler that leaked the carbon monoxide that overcame Christi and Bobby Shepherd in 2006 accompanying the media coverage? It’s a stark reminder that what we class as acceptable in the UK often misses the mark abroad.
As a result of such evidence, the Coroner’s Court in Wakefield ruled that the seven and six-year old children were unlawfully killed. Moreover, that the holiday firm had breached their duty of care.
CPS to re-examine the evidence
Although a Greek court acquitted Thomas Cook of any responsibility for the deaths in 2010, the Crown Prosecution Service is going to re-examine the evidence. Thomas Cook has stated that, with this verdict, a cross-examination was expected and that the firm will support any new examination.
Given the revelations on Watchdog last week, detailing the continued lack of care and attention Thomas Cook showed the grieving family after the event, that support may smack of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.
The Greek court did make a conviction in this case. The manager of the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel and two of the staff were convicted of manslaughter (via negligence).
However, it does beg the question:
who is responsible for your safety on a package holiday?
Providing you book through an accredited travel agent, the airline will cover you for all international flights. It’s not something they offer as a courtesy. There’s a statute in place that covers all international air travel: The Montreal Convention (1999).
For the vast majority of conceivable injuries, whether you’re actually in the air or grounded, The Convention covers passengers’ safety.
There’s a reason we say “provided you’ve booked through an accredited travel agent”. That’s because it’s they who have a Duty of Care for your travelling party, including luggage. Should mishaps occur, they’ll set about organising any compensation due, for which they themselves will be covered.
The travel operator’s Duty of Care doesn’t end when you disembark your flight. They accept responsibility for your welfare for the duration of your vacation.
Self-booking/Extreme Sports Vacations
Many people nowadays book their own flights and hotel accommodation. As such, you’re appointing yourself as your own tour operator, to a certain extent. Therefore it’s imperative you take out appropriate insurance to cover you for your time abroad.
For those who like whitewater rafting, snowboarding, ski-jumping – anything active that may incur greater risk – you should take out specialist insurance. As there’s greater risk of personal injury, so the cost of cover rises.
For now, we’ve got the NHS just a phone call away should anything go wrong at home. Most countries do not have such a health service, nor are they obliged to speak English.
Yes, the travel operator is ultimately responsible for your safety. But that doesn’t mean you should take everything for granted. Most of us only get one vacation a year. Don’t let an accident abroad ruin it for you.