A young woman who says she was ‘violently ill’ for her entire holiday at the Steigenburger Aqua Magic Hotel in Egypt has launched a legal claim for damages and criticised national operator Thomas Cook for offering her a £100 voucher as compensation.
Caitlin Kelly, of Folkestone, Kent, travelled to the resort in April of this year with her partner Sam, 20, to celebrate her 19th birthday.
However, she says they both became ill on their second evening at the hotel, with her illness so bad that she was in agony with stomach cramps, sickness and diarrhoea for the rest of the break.
The illness limited the pair to spending the majority of their time in their hotel room.
Having made an official complaint following their return, Caitlin says the £100 voucher offered in compensation from Thomas Cook felt like an ‘insult’.
She has now instructed travel litigation specialist Paul McClorry, of Hudgell Solicitors, to represent her in a claim against the package holiday operator.
Mr McClorry, who is representing a number of people taken ill whilst at the same hotel between April and August of this year, says the matter will be further investigated.
“Sadly it is all too easy for holiday operators to dismiss serious holiday illnesses as being due to the change in surroundings and temperature. In many cases gastric illness abroad is as a result of poor hygiene or food standards,” he said.
“Such illnesses can result in dream holidays, which people save long and hard for, being completely ruined, as was the case for Caitlin and Sam. If that is the case then people are entitled to claim compensation for not only their illness but also to recover the cost of their holiday and any other losses they have incurred.
“There have been many health concerns raised with regards to this hotel in recent years and certainly in the summer months of this year. We will be contacting Thomas Cook with regards to Caitlin’s holiday and the reasons behind her illness.”
Having reported their illness to the hotel and arranging to see the on-site doctor, Caitlin says she was angered by what she perceived as a ‘lack of care’ of both Thomas Cook and hotel staff.
She says she had to pay £100 excess and show her insurance documents before she was even considered for any medical assessment or treatment.
“I was really angry as I was so unwell and yet there was nobody who really seemed to care, either during the holiday or when we returned home,” she said.
“We both started to feel unwell on our second night when we were having dinner and from that point onwards I was really poorly and couldn’t eat anything without suffering from sickness, stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
“Thereafter, I’d only eat basic foods, just pasta and pizza and chips. As soon as I tried to eat anything though the sickness and diarrhoea would start again. I’d only eaten at the hotel and only drank bottled water, so I couldn’t have picked up the illness elsewhere.
“I was so angry as we’d saved up especially for this holiday and had planned it for my 19th birthday. It was completely ruined, but there has been no sympathy or apologies. They simply didn’t care.
“When I went for the medical treatment in the hotel the doctor wouldn’t see me until we’d shown all of our insurance paperwork. I was being violently ill and sick in the toilet and she could hear me being ill but did nothing until we produced the paperwork and paid the £100 excess.
“She gave me an injection and some tablets but it just appeared to be all about money. Sam was ill too, but not as bad as me, so he decided not to have any medical care through the hotel and went to a local pharmacist as because it would have been another £100 we’d have to find.
“The holiday was a complete write off and I was still ill when we flew back to Gatwick. The whole thing was a disaster.”
Couple made complaint on return home and Thomas Cook offered £100 voucher
On returning home Caitlin contacted Thomas Cook to make an official complaint and says it proved another frustrating experience.
“I was very angry. We’d spent around £1,400 on the holiday and also saved spending money, which is a lot for us. They were very dismissive though of what had happened and claimed it was just ‘travellers’ diarrhea, which was an absolute nonsense,” she said.
“Then, after two weeks they asked me to supply stool samples, which was completely pointless as everything would have been out of my system by then.
“Then I got an offer of £100 from Thomas Cook which just felt like an insult. I just feel let down and angry and I wonder how many other people have been ill on holiday at this hotel and been dismissed like I was.
“I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to do any more but then I saw the sad news about the British couple that died in August and that hundreds of other guests had been removed from the hotel by Thomas Cook. It was then I looked for legal advice.”
Investigations continue into hotel where couple died and many others have complained of illness
In a statement to the media, Thomas Cook has said: “We are aware that a number of customers have come forward to say they experienced illness while staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada, Egypt.
“The safety and well-being of our customers is always our first priority and we want all of our customers to have the best time on holiday with us. We are looking into Ms Kelly’s case further to understand what happened.”
Investigations continue into the hotel continue following the deaths of British guests John and Susan Cooper in August – which authorities Egypt have said were due to E.coli bacteria
Last month it was reported that Thomas Cook was ordered to pay £26,000 in compensation and costs to a family struck down with a gastric illness at the hotel in Egypt just four weeks before Mr and Mrs Cooper died at the hotel.
It had been alleged Thomas Cook failed to ensure food and drink was safe for human consumption, free from pathogenic microorganisms and stored, cooked or reheated in a safe manner. It was also alleged that raw, undercooked and stale food was served.