Here’s Travel Gossip’s roundup of things that caught our eye during 2023:
January kicked off with Jet2holidays and Kuoni coming out top in a Which? annual survey of package holiday providers and ended with Flybe ceasing trading. A brazen scammer was caught pretending to be a travel agent to make a fake booking. Listen to the voice recording here.
Expectations were high and bookings rolled in, with 7 January 2023 named ‘Sunshine Saturday’. But it didn’t end there, as Miles Morgan dubbed the following weekend Super Sunshine Saturday, then the one after that Super Duper Sunshine Saturday.
In March, leaked WhatsApp messages revealed that Matt Hancock, Boris Johnson and others had joked about people who had been forced to quarantine during lockdown, while Jet2 CEO Steve Heapy wrote to the leader of Lanzarote’s government after she said she wanted to encourage higher-spending Germans. In fact, figures shared with Travel Gossip showed Brits holidaying in Spain actually spend about €10 more per day.
There was a new Sheriff in town in April when Dame Irene Hays was declared High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear for 2023/24. Elsewhere, City of Doncaster Council agreed to set aside £3.1 million to help re-open Doncaster Sheffield Airport.
In May, many agents found themselves unable to communicate with customers on Facebook after the social media giant unpublished their business pages without warning. ABTA defended its decision to increase annual subscription rates by 8.5%, the US finally clarified its entry rule for visitors who have previously travelled to Cuba and former footballer Gary Neville ‘discovered’ the concept of a holiday.
In June, we learned another footballer, Lionel Messi, should have used a travel agent. More about him later.
And agent Gemma Milne desperately searched for answers when her partner was beaten up, then deported after flying into Istanbul for the Champions League final, in what she suspected was a case of mistaken identity. More than six months later, and despite enlisting the help of Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and local MP, Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner, Gemma’s still waiting for answers.
ATOL turned 50.
In July, tourists fled to beaches as wildfires edged closer to hotels on Rhodes, resulting in cancelled flights and holidays to the island, while the following month, a technical fault left more than 1,500 flights cancelled and around 200,000 passengers stranded on August Bank Holiday Monday.
September saw speculation mount on social media that Monarch Airlines was about to relaunch six years after its collapse, with the @letsmonarch handle appearing on Twitter and Instagram and a letsmonarch.co.uk website going live. A former aircraft man, Daniel Ellingham, was registered as a person having ‘significant control’ of Monarch Airlines by Companies House. But no-one actually spoke to the man himself and a representative only dealt with questions over email. Then it all went quiet.
A court ordered Carnival to pay the medical bills of a passenger who came down with COVID on Ruby Princess, in a ruling that could open the floodgates to more claims. A judge in Australia ruled that the cruise line misled passengers about safety risks and should have cancelled the cruise in March 2020.
In November, an inquest into the deaths of travel agent Susan Cooper and husband John ruled they were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from a bedbug pesticide at the Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada in 2018. Virgin Atlantic flew the first transatlantic flight to be powered by Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF).
Messi popped up again in December – this time being named ‘icon’ of Royal Caribbean’s newest ship.
In a strange way, the travel year ended as it began. Jet2 and Kuoni were praised by Which? again, and agents were warned about potential fraud. The latest was a post on Travel Gossip’s Facebook group warning agents to beware of a man called Orville wanting to book a last-minute holiday to Dubai.
It led one agent to joke: “’I wish I could fly you out to Dubai, but I can’t.’ ‘You can.’ ‘I can’t’.”