Pensioners in Spain on holiday
Travel sickness claims from British tourists have jumped 500% over the last three years, says travel trade body Abta Moving to another EU country may become difficult for Brits (Reuters)

A couple who made up bogus compensation claims about falling ill on holiday have been ordered to pay almost £4,000 in legal costs, after being taken to court by travel giant Thomas Cook.

Julie Lavelle and her partner Michael McIntyre attempted to claim £10,000 in damages but a Liverpool court found they were "fundamentally dishonest".

Thomas Cook said this was the first of a number of cases it intends to bring as the industry moves to curb the rocketing number of fake claims made by British holidaymakers abroad that threaten to push up the price of breaks away.

The operator said: "This is a significant case which sends a clear message to claimants – we will not pay claims which we believe to be dishonest, and we will take further action where necessary."

The court heard earlier this week how Lavelle and McIntyre and their two children had gone on a two-week all-inclusive holiday with the operator to Parque Cristobal Hotel in Gran Canaria in 2013, before filing a claim against Thomas Cook three years later through their solicitors, Bridger & Co of Llandovery in Wales.

They demanded £10,000 in damages, claiming the family had gone down with gastroenteritis on the third day of their trip, the symptoms of which continued until after the family's return to the UK.

But the judge at Liverpool County Court heard that McIntyre had not mentioned any illness in a post-holiday questionnaire and had rated other elements of the holiday as good or excellent.

McIntyre said he had consumed six pints of lager when he completed the form and either ticked the answers randomly or favourably in an effort to win a prize in a draw run by Thomas Cook for those who fill in the questionnaire.

The court also heard that both Lavelle and McIntyre returned to work on return from holiday, and her children to nursery, without mentioning their illness to hotel staff or tour operator reps.

Lavelle visited a local doctor within a few days of being back in the UK for a different reason and did not mention any gastroenteritis.

The judge found that the claimants' accounts were false and ordered them to pay costs of £3,744. Costs are only the responsibility of the claimants should they be adjudged to have been "fundamentally dishonest".

Thomas Cook UK managing director Chris Mottershead said: "We're pleased that the judge found in our favour. It's not comfortable for us to be in court questioning our customers' credibility, but the significant increase in unreported illness claims being received by the travel industry threatens holidays for all UK customers."

All-inclusive illness

Travel sickness claims from British tourists have jumped 500% over the last three years, according to the industry body that represents 1,200 UK tour operators, Abta.

It said tens of thousands of holidaymakers had made claims in the past year – worth between £3,000 and £5,000 each – despite reported sickness levels in resorts remaining stable.

Hoteliers in Portugal and Spain say they have been particularly badly hit and are threatening to stop offering all-inclusive holidays to Britons, the body added.

Fake claim cases usually involve holidaymakers on all-inclusive deals, who argue that because they only ate in their hotel, that must have been the source of their alleged food poisoning.

Abta warned that travel insurance could go up for all holidaymakers, in the same way fake 'whiplash' claims pushed up car insurance a few years ago.