Slovenia is not an easy place to get to, should you live away from Gatwick or London Luton airports, which benefit from regular flights from Adria Airways and budget operators. But yet, I use Manchester Airport which has two flights a week to Ljubljana during the May to September peak Lakes and Mountains season, both by Slovenia’s Flag Carrier. That though is only half the story.
Adria Airways is a very modest-sized outfit, with only three of their ‘planes having over 135 seats. Fair enough, a small country cannot overreach itself but bearing in mind that when I first went to Slovenia in 1999 the larger ‘planes in their fleet were used on the Manchester to Ljubljana route; now they use the 86 seater aircraft on this service. It is therefore, in theory at least, twice as difficult to get a seat on a ‘plane to LJU and ergo, to secure a holiday in Slovenia. With this in mind, I found myself last October a full 8 months before my intended departure needing to book the seemingly last seat on the ‘plane, booked through Crystal Summer, for my intended return to Lake Bohinj.
When I started travelling to Slovenia is was pitifully cheap; one almost felt sorry for the hoteliers who couldn’t have made much from a package-holiday booking – I even had a superior-quality pizza for the equivalent of £2.30 – but now all that has changed. For a week to Lake Bohinj, staying at the Hotel Jezero with return flights and transfers I was charged £824. This included the bewilderingly steep single-supplement of £175. I was though left with the option of paying this or not being able to go at all. For the £175 surcharge I naively expected a double or twin room that had been given over for the use by a single-traveller, hence the heavy premium. What I got was a single-room, a dedicated single-room.
Where then does the £175 supplement go? Is it a penalty for being single or for daring to go abroad without my girlfriend? As single-rooms went it was fine: clean, well-appointed but inevitably poky and with no view to speak of. I also ridiculously assumed that I’d get a superior room with a lake-view for my substantial outlay. No chance. When I challenged Crystal Summer about this, their responses were nebulous, unapologetic and disingenuous. Having researched what it would have cost should I have booked the hotel Jezero independently, there would have been NO EXTRA CHARGE for the use of a dedicated single-room. Therefore, the traveller at the point of sale goes into the transaction with her/her eyes wide-open as to what kind of room they will receive. Only if the single-traveller decided to opt for a double/twin room for their sole use would there then be a premium to pay. Fair enough. Crystal Summer though were unrepentant on this blatant fact, despite still insisting that I got what I paid for: a superior single-room with balcony. Has anybody ever heard of a superior single-room? As Crystal Summer have not passed on what they were charged by the Jezero, I regard this money-grab as shameless profiteering. it would appear to be a tax on single-people, a blatant disregard of somebody not travelling as part of a couple or family.
Am I calling Crystal Summer crooks? For two reasons, no. Firstly, I don’t want an epistle from their lawyers but also, they are not the only company guilty of this iniquity and inequality. Their direct rivals in the Lakes and Mountains package-holiday industry are similarly found wanting when it comes to seeing single-travellers coming and summarily shafting them. The discrimination of single-travellers is rife throughout the travel-industry, from charging supplements for no good reason, to putting single-travellers in the eves of hotels and most prevalent of all: not giving singletons a bath but just a shower. When a hiker has been out all day, does he/she want a bath or shower? Couples using a double-room get both a bath and shower so what is the difference? To say a bath takes up too much room in a dedicated single-room is complete nonsense when everything can be achieved if the will is there to do so.
So why would I consider another Lakes and Mountains tour-operator instead of Crystal Summer when they all seem to be as bad as each other? Firstly, I would never use Crystal Summer again due the nonsense they espoused when replying to my concerns; I would also draw attention to the fact I have deep-reservations as to the quality of their Resort Representatives, especially compared to the staff Inghams employ. It is regrettable but to get to the Alps from my area of England in the shortest possible time a package-holiday is still the best way to achieve this. Despite Crystal Summer’s L & M programme containing the outstanding resorts of Scheffau and Schladming which are otherwise difficult to get to, I can never now use them again.