British Woman Loses £11,000 Antarctic Cruise Due to Cabin Baggage Mix-Up

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Filed Under: Antartica, Hurtigruten

In an unfortunate turn of events that could probably happen to any of us, Valerie Coleshaw from Bolton lost her £11,000 ($13,750 USD) Antarctic cruise with Hurtigruten Expeditions (now HX) due to a cabin baggage mishap on a KLM flight.

Valerie’s unfortunate saga was first reported by The Independent and dates back to Sunday, February 12, 2023, when she departed from Manchester airport, eager for what she thought would be the holiday of a lifetime.

However, by Monday, February 13, she was back home without her luggage and feeling devastated.

Luggage Goes Missing Between Connecting Flights

Valerie was on a KLM flight from Manchester to Amsterdam, from where she was supposed to transfer to Buenos Aires and then continue to Ushuaia in southern Argentina.

On the initial flight, cabin crew asked her to check in her cabin baggage due to the plane being “extremely full.” She was assured that her luggage would be returned to her at Amsterdam airport.

Upon arrival in Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport, Valerie’s case did not appear on the carousel. She was advised to proceed directly to the boarding gate for her flight to Buenos Aires, where she was told her luggage would be waiting. It wasn’t.

Hurtigruten Cruise Ship In Antartica
Hurtigruten Cruise Ship In Antartica

KLM Captain Refuses Permission To Fly Due To Missing Medication

After hours of inquiries with the staff, her hand luggage, which contained essential items including her asthma spray, could not be located. Valerie informed ground staff about her missing medication. The KLM captain subsequently decided that she would not be able to embark on the 7,100-mile journey without her asthma spray.

A KLM representative left her with a staff member who attempted to book her on another flight the following day. Realizing she would face the same issue without her hand luggage, Valerie felt stranded and humiliated.

She could not contact Hurtigruten, as all her paperwork was in the missing hand luggage. KLM provided her with hotel vouchers and arranged a flight back to Manchester the next morning.

KLM’s policy states that when passengers are required to check in cabin baggage, they should remove valuables and items needed during the flight. Valerie disputes that this information was conveyed to her and maintains that she was assured her luggage would be waiting at Amsterdam airport.

Valerie has since received a full refund from KLM for the value of the flights, along with a £500 travel voucher.

However, this compensation covers only a fraction of her total expenses. She had paid £10,660 for the Hurtigruten package and spent additional hundreds on travel insurance, guidebooks, and Antarctic clothing.

Under the Package Travel Regulations, the holiday organizer, in this case, Hurtigruten, is responsible for delivering the booked trip, including contracted services like flights. Typically, if an airline fails to transport a passenger in time for their holiday, a full refund would be expected.

However, Hurtigruten does not accept that KLM was at fault and is refusing to issue a full refund. Instead, HX has offered Valerie £8,500 for an alternative cruise as a goodwill gesture.

Valerie describes the offer as “honorable but not usable.” She attempted to use some of the credit for a West African cruise, but the voyage was canceled by the company ahead of departure.

Valerie’s circumstances have significantly changed since the lost cruise. She has suffered a serious shoulder injury, and her 95-year-old mother’s health has deteriorated, making it impossible for her to plan a similar expedition.

An HX spokesperson commented: “We are disappointed that we have been unable to resolve this issue to date. Our guest experience team has been in direct contact with Ms. Coleshaw for several months, working hard to find a resolution.

Following a thorough review, we offered a ‘Future Cruise Credit’ equivalent to the value of the sailing, which far exceeds our standard cancellation policy, as a sincere goodwill gesture.

We have also extended the rebooking period to the end of 2024, for any expedition voyage departing through to the end of 2025.”

Despite this, Valerie remains disheartened. “I chose Hurtigruten because I had traveled with them before, and it was top class. Plus, the flights were included, giving me peace of mind if a connecting flight was delayed.

I did not cancel my ‘Holiday of a Lifetime’ but realized that without medication and everything in my hand luggage, I couldn’t travel further. The pursuit of the refund is taking a toll on my health and well-being. I’m starting to give up, but it’s so much money and a shattered dream.”

The situation serves as a cautionary tale for travelers to ensure they have immediate access to essential items, including medication and travel documentation, especially when flying under “potentially disruptive conditions”, like something as simple as flight transfer.

Interestingly, although it was clear that Valerie, did have travel insurance, it would appear that she has not been able to make a claim on her insurance – potentially due to the fact that she allowed her medication to be put in the hold. A lesson for us all!

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Alan took his first cruise in 1991 and has been cruising ever since. When he is not writing articles for CruiseNonstop.com you'll find him either on a cruise ship (he's the guy in the kilt), or on the golf course!

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