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Elair Callaghan says travel firm 'rip off' has wrecked her dream trip
CARE home worker Elair Callaghan spent years saving up for flights to visit her family in Jamaica this Christmas - but fears she has been "ripped off" by a travel company and the trip will now have to be cancelled.
The 46-year-old booked the trip online with a firm called Carlsberg Travel Ltd in the summer, but says no tickets have been issued and the company website has since been disabled.
She cannot get through to the firm by phone and even travelled to a branch which was listed in Leicester, only to find an empty office.
Meanwhile, a council in Scotland has issued an alert about the company, while Thames Valley Police are investigating 20 similar cases.
Mrs Callaghan and her husband John, of Dashwood Avenue, High Wycombe, said they paid £1,070 for two return tickets - leaving London Gatwick on November 29, with a return flight from Kingston on January 10.
Jamaican-born Mrs Callaghan said: "I haven’t been to Jamaica for four years, and I’ve been looking forward to it for years now because all my family are going to be there.
"It was a cheap price so we chose this company, but they said it had to be paid by cash through the bank because it was a last minute offer and the tickets would be gone."
After paying the money into the bank in July the couple said all they received from Carlsberg Travel was an email confirmation a few days later, but no tickets were ever sent.
When Mrs Callaghan, a mum-of-two who works at a care home in Beaconsfield, became worried she contacted British Airways and was told they were not booked on the flight.
She added: "Later we called Carlsberg Travel to get a reference number, and they gave us one but BA said they didn’t recognise it.
"After that we couldn’t get through to Carlsberg Travel. We even went up to one of their offices in Leicester but it was just like an office with lots of boxes....We’ve been ripped off."
After speaking to Trading Standards and the police, Mrs Callaghan believes there is no way of getting the money back and the trip will have to be abandoned.
She said: "It’s my mum’s 71st birthday and one of my sons who is in the navy is going to be there - I haven’t seen him for six or seven years. We were going to have a nice family time....
"It’s completely hopeless now because I can’t afford it. Usually I’m a happy-go-lucky person but this is really depressing. I’ve been crying all the time but I don’t want to cry in front of people."
Mrs Callaghan was also looking forward to the trip because she has spent months collecting clothes, toys and food to give to people in her mum’s neighbourhood in Saint Elizabeth. Now she says she will have to send all the items by shipment.
The Bucks Free Press has been unable to contact Carlsberg Travel Ltd, which claims to be headquarted in the centre of Edinburgh, but does not appear to have an active website or phone number.
Companies House lists Bimal Nhemafuki as the company director and gives his address as a house in Coventry Road, Reading. The BFP went to the house but the occupants said the 25-year-old had moved to Nepal.
Edinburgh Council posted this message on its website in August: "Trading Standards officers in Edinburgh have issued an alert regarding a travel company claiming to be based in the city.
"Carlsberg Travel Ltd has allowed consumers to pay in full for flights, but failed to provide the 'booked' tickets. Although the company's website has been taken down, several Trading Standards services report that the trader continues to advertise in local papers in England."
It advises those who have given money to the firm to contact the Police Action Fraud team on 0300 123 2040.
Rhianne Pope, spokesman for Thames Valley Police, said officers are currently looking into 20 other similar cases.
She added: "They all have a similar story - asking people to transfer money into an account and then the victim finds out there are no tickets later.
"I have been told two other websites to look out for are: www.airlineticketsagentuk.com and www.travelticketscompany.co.uk"
Referring to the other reports she said: "The others are a mix of the three companies but yes, they are being linked to Carlsberg Travel as officers believe the three are the same."
Buckinghamshire County Council and British Airways have issued advice to travellers after hearing about the Callaghan's story - see related links.