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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:34 UK time, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

X-Ray meets a family whose holiday was far from the relaxing break they had hoped for.

With disabled daughter Jade and sisters Jessica and Demi to look after, life is pretty hectic for Nicola and Mark Whelan.

Jade, 10, has walking and learning difficulties and failing eyesight among other problems, so needs lots of extra care.

Swapping Cardiff for two weeks chilling out in Ibiza seemed like the perfect escape. Nicola said: "We'd been through quite a lot of stress over the year and it was basically get away and forget about all the stresses."

They chose a Thomson holiday, costing £1,777, at the Club Migjorn Apartments. Nicola booked it through travel agent Thomas Cook and made sure she told them all about Jade's special needs so they could inform Thomson.

She said: "Basically we've got to make sure that we have a ground floor apartment due to Jade's walking difficulties and being in a wheelchair.

"We've got to make sure that we have extra baggage allowance for her medication and nappies."

Thomas Cook said they let Thomson know about Jade's disability, using the correct procedures, and even phoned them to check they'd received the details.

Nicola said she also gave Thomas Cook Jade's disabled badge number and was told to leave it with them and they would get through to Thomson's Special Needs Department.

She said she rang Thomas Cook three times over the year to check everything was fine for Jade's needs and was told it was.

With first-class treatment at Bristol Airport, the holiday began well. But at the resort, they faced a flight of 17 to 18 steps to their room which was on the first floor.

Nicola recalled: "Jade basically just stood there, wouldn't even attempt to go up them.

"She looked gobsmacked, like to say to us: "Have I got to try to get up there?' We had to carry Jade up and carry her wheelchair up and down as well."

They complained immediately to a Thomson rep but were told they couldn't be moved straight away.

On the fourth night, Mark fell while pushing Jade down a small ramp. He said the chair flipped over and he hurt his back and had to stay in bed for a couple of days.

Nicola demanded they be moved to a ground-floor apartment but was told to contact the Thomson rep. He wasn't there, so staff suggested she contact Thomson in the UK - using the payphone outside.

A Thomson rep eventually met the family and gave them two options: either move somewhere else on the island at a cost of 400 euros, or all six share a one-bedroom apartment.

The family couldn't afford 400 euros so moved to the one-bedroom apartment.

But it wasn't much better. It was a three-storey apartment with five steps to the living room and six to seven steps to the bedroom.

Using the walls for support, Jade could manage to pull herself up the stairs - but it was not easy. The family also felt the cramped conditions were run down, dirty and damp.

As soon as Nicola returned home she rang Thomas Cook and wrote to Thomson to complain, including the photographs they'd taken of the resort.

A few weeks later, a hamper with flowers, two bottles of wine, sweets and chocolates arrived from Thomson.

They then sent a letter of apology and a voucher - for £130 off the family's next holiday with Thomson. The family refused it and have been left nervous of going abroad again.

Thomson told X-Ray they asked the travel agent if Jade would need special assistance when boarding the plane.

As the family didn't request that help ­- because her father was happy to carry her up the steps - Thomson say they were led to believe that no further support was required.

But they say they did pass on the family's request for a ground floor apartment to the hotelier and it was the hotel's decision to allocate them a first floor apartment.

They say the Club Migjorn Apartments aren't suitable for guests needing wheelchairs and this should have been made clear to the family when the holiday was booked.

Thomson have now refunded the Whelans 50% of the cost of their accommodation and a supplement they paid - £445 in total.

Mark Harvey, who specialises in travel law, helped X-Ray investigate the case.

He said Thomson's offer was not the most generous but it was difficult to say it was the wrong award because there could be an argument as to whether the travel agent was to blame as well.

Asked how companies like these decide what compensation to offer, he explained that general guidance from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) was that they split the cost between the accommodation - commonly 40% - and travel 60%.

He said: "They will very rough and ready... you got your flights there and back, they were fine, you got your day on the beach that was ok, and they will work on those multiples."

Mark believes the Whelans were right to make the video as it demonstrates what the access problems were and why they couldn't enjoy their holiday.

It also helped that they sent a detailed complaint letter so the holiday company should have no excuse that they didn't appreciate what the problems were.

Mark added: "They had the added benefit that they came to you and you ultimately got them the money and not the bunch of flowers in the beginning.

"You need evidence and persistence and, if necessary, you'll have to take it to ABTA, the Associate of British Travel Agents, or you take it to court."

To prevent something similar happening when you book a holiday, Mark advises making it very clear to your travel agent or tour operator exactly what you need and how important it is.

If is it something fundamental as in the Whelans' case, Mark suggests you ensure it goes on your booking form.

He said: "What was missing in this case was I think was confirmation that it had been accepted and it was a term of the holiday and not just left here like it was as a special request."

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