Customers claim travel company owes thousands in unpaid refunds after cancellations and poor service


Customers who booked with a Welsh coach company claim they have been left up to hundreds of pounds out of pocket after not receiving refunds for cancelled trips. Passengers also claimed they had “nightmare” journeys with Merthyr Tydfil-based firm Travel with Matthew including a trip to Bath which resulted in a five-hour journey time.

A statement from the business, which started in 2019, stated “a number of contributing factors” led to some of the issues raised by customers. It also included an apology and said a brand-new admin department had been appointed.

Local resident Anthony Soroko said he had been waiting five months for a refund from Travel with Matthew after a trip for his wife and daughter to London was cancelled. The 51-year-old said it wasn’t the first time he’d had issues with the company, but that this was the longest he’d had to wait for a refund.

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He said: “We’ve had a couple of trips booked with them going back a few years ago and some of them have been cancelled and we had our money back no problem. My wife booked a trip with my daughter to go to Camden Market in London in late November 2021. They cancelled it in December. My wife has been down four times and they’ve just fobbed her off. They told her it’s being processed and that she should wait seven days. Then she went back down there and they said it’s pending and that she must wait another three to five days. That didn’t take place then she went down there [two more times] and she gave up.”

Anthony said in total Travel with Matthew owed them £28 for the cancelled trip. Although he said it wasn’t a lot of money compared to others affected, it was the “principle” of not having a refund that bothered them the most. As a result, he went down to the shop on Monday along with other unhappy customers claiming to have not had their refunds.

Anthony said: “The company rep gave us a cheque, which they said would be cleared by midnight (Wednesday morning at 12am). We just wanted our money back for a trip they cancelled. There were a few people there in Monday and we had a chat – everyone had a similar story.

“The company rep came out and said he could do a bank transfer and it would take five days to go through. I run a business and that wouldn’t take five days to go through. The company rep told another lady that her payment was pending and to go back to her credit card provider. When she went to her credit card provider, they told her there was no refund in action. I’ve heard that [happen] quite a lot.”

He said overall, he said his experience with the company was “abysmal”, made even more frustrating with numerous emails and phone calls being ignored.

Another Merthyr resident and customer who wished to remain anonymous claimed the company owes her group of friends nearly £1,250. She said she had booked a trip to Liverpool in November 2021 which was cancelled two days before they were set to leave with no explanation. Six months later and that money still has not been reimbursed, she said.

“We’re really disappointed that we haven’t got our money back,” she said. “People have had enough. They’ve paid Matthew in good faith for trips that have been cancelled. We’ve waited since November to have our money back and now we’ve gone down the small claims court route.”

The upset customer said she felt particularly concerned for people affected who may not have the confidence or means to confront the company, such as those who are more vulnerable. She said: “We live in a deprived area and everyone deserves a holiday and a good time. The company hasn’t been forthcoming and didn’t give us a reason as to why the trip to Liverpool was cancelled. We’ve never had an apology either.”

A second passenger, who did not wish to be named, said although his trip was not cancelled, it did not live up to his expectations. When he asked for a refund, he was refused one. “I’m part of a quiz team and rather than a meal out for Christmas we decided on a daytrip to Bath on November 27, 2021 – it went disastrously wrong from the beginning,” he said.

The man said the trip was not carried out by a Travel with Matthew coach, but rather a supplier company. He said it took around five hours to get to Bath during a journey that should take less than two hours.

“When we got on there was nobody checking the passenger [register],” he said. “Then a lady came around and asked for names. It turned out she was one of the passengers from another group. She sat on a seat next to the driver and it turned out that the driver had asked her for help as she didn’t know how to get to Bath. The driver didn’t have a GPS.

“There were about eight pick up points and at one of them got off because she was worried about not getting home in time. We got on at 7am, this was 10am and there were another few pick up points to go before we arrived in Bath at 12.15pm.”

A note in the window of the shop after unhappy customers attended on Monday

He said during the drive, passengers were told the toilets were out of use, so during an emergency one of them forced the door open. “At the back there were ladies drinking alcohol and they wanted the driver to stop to use the toilet but it was locked. Eventually a group of people managed to force it open after a baby projectile vomited and there was nothing to clean it up with.”

Vicky Vrettos, 42, said she was also a passenger on the Bath trip on November 27. She said she had to sit at the front of the coach and show the driver where to go during the “nightmare” trip. Though she tried to get a refund for the £22-per-head trip, Vicky said it was declined by Travel with Matthew.

“The driver didn’t know where she was going and was late for every pick up. She went around Porth three times trying to get to the pick up point. Then my friend had to tell everybody how long they would have when we stopped at the services. She had to tick the list off when the passengers were getting on the bus, which was against Data Protection because we could see everyone’s names and phone numbers. There was another customer collecting rubbish off the bus.”

She said when the driver suggested parking 30 minutes away, she helped to direct her to a more suitable spot. “Getting down into Bath, there were roadworks and the driver didn’t know how to get into Bath so I sat in the front of the bus and directed her into Bath. I then arranged for the driver to drive back into Bath [from the park and ride] and found a place where she could drop us off and arrange to meet us there afterwards.

“On the way back the driver told us she couldn’t do all the drop offs as she didn’t have time. I sat at the front of the bus from Bath back to Pontypridd as the driver was unsure of where to go. The people from Porth ended up coming up to Merthyr to get another bus back to Porth. It was a complete nightmare from getting on the bus to getting off. My mum was stressed out and she had a panic attack while we were there. I started messaging Matthew as soon as I got back into the house and I wasn’t getting anywhere.”

On Trustpilot, Travel with Matthew has a rating of 2.5. One person wrote: “Had our lodge cancelled due to Covid. Took several months after the booking date to have any response from Matthew. We were owed close to £600 for 4 months. Finally had some confirmation that we would receive a refund but had to pay fees totalling £100.”

Another said: “We were supposed to go to Disneyland Paris in December 2021, due to the change in Covid restrictions we were offered a full refund or to move the trip which we were unable to do due to a member of the group being pregnant. We opted for a full refund, [it’s] now March 2022 and still no refund. We call nearly every day…we have been told the refund has been processed, then told there is no evidence of this, completely let down every time… We are owed over £1000!!”

A spokesman said a number of recent changes had been made within the company

A spokesman for Travel with Matthew said in a statement: “As a representative of Travel with Matthew we would like to issue a general statement in relation to the recent press we have received. A number of social media posts have circulated and have caused a detrimental effect on our business. A number of comments made have been incorrect with information such as ‘bounced cheques, the company entering liquidation, and many other damaging comments.

“The company at no point has filed for liquidation and at no point have cheques bounced from the business. We had simply received a Gazette Notice due to late filing, of which social media has taken completely out of context. There has been a number of contributing factors to this, and as a business even down to the recent TV programme, we have been unable to provide a full response containing the full information as to exactly what had gone wrong due to an on-going legal case.

“As a business, throughout the year of 2021, we faced some devastating issues with a former employee. There is an ongoing investigation that prevents us from providing specific details. The employee in question has sadly cost the business just over £85K in contracts which had not been actioned correctly, causing a huge strain on supplier contracts such as Hotels and Operators. This alone has had a huge impact on the business, especially with us just coming through a pandemic.

“It had seen a major impact on the daily running of Travel with Matthew, and has had a huge part to play in the negative reputation within the local area with late cancellations and hotel or tour changes. Many of the issues raised within your emails have been in relation to Hotels, Operators and Individual experiences of which has all been a knock-on effect from this on-going case.

“We understand and have recognised that we have fallen short on our usual standards of service, despite our very best efforts to recover from this impact as quickly as possible. We are a business, that has been trading for just three years, and two of those years we were unable to do what we aimed to do best, with lockdown restrictions in place.

“As a business, we want to acknowledge where we’ve gone wrong, and sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this has caused our customers. As of this week, the business has appointed a new dedicated management team and a new plan is now in place to recover Travel with Matthew’s reputation within Wales. Moving forward, the business will be known as ‘TWM Holidays’ in line with a rebrand the company are facing in line with the new management appointed.

“We have recruited some top talent to match this, with employees joining the company from long standing, experienced coach operators bringing with them years’ worth of experience. 90% of tours have now become in house operations, with us using our very own fleet of Mercedes Tourismo executive coaches and own experienced drivers, this alone on our review platforms has seen a huge change on current holidays that are departing.

“The business was founded back in 2019, and we worked tirelessly to become an affordable, reliable and energetic company. Offering a wide range of coach holidays and staycation breaks! Throughout the last 24 months, we have continued to grow, despite some of the most challenging times for our industry, something we’re extremely proud of! Behind the scenes we have also been busy hiring and training up new team members, to improve the experience of all our customers.

“We have appointed a brand-new admin department which will be focusing on all pre-departure info, timings, itineraries and customer services. Ensuring that all our clients receive new pre-departure travel packs with all the information they need for their upcoming holiday with us.

“We have also added extra staff within our accounts and financing department to ensure a much smoother transition with refunds, credits and invoices. Of which we know had been causing us some negative feedback. We have ensured this week, following the feedback that our team have been dedicated to getting any outstanding refunds processed and issued to our customers.

“We understand some customers experience may not have been to the standard desired but we have made some major changes across the business, to ensure we get back to providing the exceptional service our customers deserve! And many part time positions have been turned into full time positions to ensure we get back on top of the service they deserve much quicker.

“It has been a very challenging period for all within the travel sector, and to finally be seeing our customers booking their holidays and supporting our dream once again, has been absolutely incredible! We are a young, vibrant holiday company, and our mission remains the same ‘to become the most loved welsh holiday company’ we know with our customers continued support we can do just that.

“But, before we get back to our mission, we wanted to take a moment to apologise to any customers who have been impacted over the previous weeks and months, we are confident in saying with a new selection of coach operators, coach drivers, an expanded team at TWM plus a brand-new hotel collection, TWM is due to shine once more.”

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