Fraudulent false sickness claims risked denting Jet2holidays’ finances more than £20 million last year, it has been revealed.
Jet2.com and Jet2holidays chief executive Steve Heapy said the operator’s tough stance though had driven claims down 84% this year.
Heapy, speaking at the Jet2holidays VIP conference (November 26-29), said Jet2holidays received 2,007 gastric illness claims in 2017 at an average of two-and-a-half people per claim and a cost of £3,000 to £4,000.
“When you multiply that out, that is a multi multi-million pound potential liability,” said Heapy.
“We thought it was wrong these people were going on holiday and pretending they were ill. So we started a campaign, we got everyone involved and started fighting these claims.
“We’ve had various cases in court and these people have been found guilty and received sentences ranging from significant fines to suspended hail sentences.
“This was affecting your business and our business. We fought it and we’re in a good place. We’ve won a major battle, but the war isn’t won yet. We are still fighting for the industry.”
Heapy thanked Abta, TTG and other operators for getting behind Jet’s campaign and revealed how the industry “started fighting as a body”.
He went on to explain how Jet2 liaised with British consular services and overseas police services, hired private detectives to monitor touts operating in hotels and resorts, and drafted in forensic lawyers to review every single claim.
“This wasn’t cheap,” said Heapy. “We had them [PIs] filming these touts in operation and we passed some of this footage onto the authorities and we got some companies closed down.”
Jet2 even cancelled forward bookings made by customers who had made fraudulent claims in the past. “They can go and book with someone else,” said Heapy. “It’s a hard thing to do because it’s a booking, but we don’t want people like that booking with Jet2holidays.”
Heapy also hailed the publicity the campaign received and vowed to pursue prosecutions even when people withdraw their claims. “The more [publicity] it gets, the more people are withdrawing their claims,” he said.
“We’ve had people write to us saying ‘remember that claim I submitted where I said I was on my deathbed and I had the family round planning my funeral all because I had a dodgy sausage in that hotel? Well, I was mistaken. It wasn’t actually that bad, I want to withdraw my claim’.
“Did we throw the claim file in the bin? No. We took it to the police and said ‘these people have attempted to defraud us and we want them prosecuted’.”