Holiday-makers stranded at Christmas after Islington firm closes down
PUBLISHED: 11:55 16 December 2010 | UPDATED: 15:52 20 December 2010
DOZENS of Islington residents are facing to up to a lonely and penniless Christmas after their flights home to far flung corners of the world were cancelled at the last minute.
Travel agent ufly.com sold tickets to people desperate to visit their loved ones over the festive period from an office in the prestigious Business Design Centre, off Upper Street, Islington.
But when the holiday-makers phoned to confirm their flights they were told by airlines that ufly.com had cancelled the tickets.
And then they discovered the firm had mysteriously shut down its office and they could not get their money back.
Peace Rwakeiru, 48, who lives in Highbury New Park, Highbury, and works as a chef at the St Mungo’s Hostel in Tufnell Park Road, Holloway, was due to fly home to Uganda to visit family and bring her 19-year-old son back to Britain.
She said: “I was looking for cheap flights and ufly told me the ticket would be £549 return to Entebbe. Of course you wonder whether it’s real but I went to the office to pay and the Business Design Centre is such a posh place...
“They booked me on a flight on Christmas Eve, and I even recommended ufly to my friend, who bought tickets back to Uganda for her and her two daughters.”
Ms Rwakeiru paid cash for her flight and used her credit card to book one of her friend’s flights.
She became suspicious when she learned she had been switched from KLM to British Airways without her knowledge, but it was only when she phoned BA to confirm that she realised things had gone horribly wrong.
“BA said they had cancelled the flight and refunded ufly,” she explained. “I phoned my friend and they told her the same so I jumped on the bus and went down to the Business Design Centre immediately.
“ufly’s office was gone so I went to the reception desk and the guy told me that about 40 people had come in complaining that they had lost their flights.
She was given the phone number of a solicitor’s she understood was representing ufly but when she rang couuld get no reply.
“I was in floods of tears and I still haven’t been able to tell my son I won’t be going back,” said Ms Rwakeiru.
Dominic Jones, chief executive of the Business Design Centre, said: “I completely understand people’s upset and sympathise with anyone who has not been able to travel as a result of the demise of ufly.com.
“We had no prior warning that they were in difficulty and from the investigations we have carried out, it is people who booked tickets in the last two weeks who have been unable to travel.
“As soon as we became aware that there was a problem, we contacted their solicitors who informed us that they were going into administration and to pass their details on to anyone affected.”
Despite repeated attempts by the Gazette and the heartbroken holidaymakers to contact the solicitors, the phone has not been picked up.
Grandmother and full-time carer Dinah Kajumba, 52, has also lost her dream holiday.
She said: “I booked a flight to Uganda in mid-October, paid £200 and agreed to pay the rest in instalments and ufly harassed me almost every day for the money and kept telling me different things about the baggage allowance and the airline I was with.
“I paid the full amount three weeks ago, but when I called British Airways they said the flight had been cancelled.
“I called the solicitor’s number and they told me they are not dealing with it any more.
“It’s awful. I don’t have any money to pay for another ticket. These people must be brought to justice.”
Islington Council’s trading standards team is investigating.
Councillor Paul Smith, Islington Council’s executive member for environment, said: “Our trading standards team are here to protect the rights of consumers and residents. They have received a number of inquiries about ufly.com which are currently being investigated.
“We’d advise anyone who has purchased tickets with this company to check with the airline to see whether the booking has been confirmed. If they have any concerns about their tickets, they should contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.”
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