Finnish tourists stranded in Bulgaria are still waiting to get home
Tour operator has promised to take action on Monday
Close to 200 Finnish tourists were stuck in Bulgaria on Saturday, and they are still waiting for a return flight to Finland from Sunny Beach on the Black Sea coast.
The tourists remained stranded in Bulgaria, as Bulgaria Air cancelled Alma Tour’s charter flights on Sunday. The airline refused to continue the Bulgarian-owned travel organiser’s flights until the debts left unpaid by the tour operator were settled satisfactorily.
According to the Bulgarian airline, Alma Tour’s unpaid debts amounted to approximately EUR 3.5 million.
Bulgaria Air is ready to fly the Finnish tourists home as soon as the tour operator has settled its outstanding obligations, estimated Ambassador Tarja Laitiainen of the Embassy of Finland in Bulgaria on Sunday. She said that it was just a question of money.
The Finnish Embassy expected that a solution to the situation would be found on Monday.
On Sunday, it was confirmed to the Finnish News Agency STT that Bulgaria Air has so far made no agreement with any party on a return flight to Helsinki.
According to the Finnish Consumer Agency, the security lodged as collateral by the Finnish subsidiary of Alma Tour meets the requirements.
This security safeguards the advance payments made by consumers in the event that the operator goes bankrupt or becomes otherwise insolvent. The Consumer Agency will use the security for example to cover such passengers' return flights.
”We assess all securities on the basis of the information given by travel companies and on the basis of the scope of their operation, after which these enterprises have to lodge an acceptable guarantee with the Consumer Agency through their bank or insurance company”, explains Director General Päivi Hentunen of the Finnish Consumer Agency.
In the case of a bankruptcy, the Consumer Agency compensates for the costs of the return trip and for the costs of hotel accommodation until the return flight.
Alma Tour started its operations in Finland three years ago, and it is currently organising tours for example to Bulgaria and the Mediterranean region.
Some of the Russian holidaymakers stuck in Bulgaria were already flown home on Sunday.
According to Alma Tour’s most recent press release, the company is looking into possibilities to organise alternative return flights for its stranded customers.
Moreover, the travellers are advised to keep an eye on the tour operator’s website and that of the Consumer Agency for updates, as Alma Tour says that they are not able to respond to any telephone or email inquiries.
Those travellers whose travel insurance will expire before they get home are advised to contact their insurance company without delay in order that the insurance period could be extended.
The Finnish Consumer Agency has given the tour operator until 16:00 on Monday to clarify whether it is able to bring the stranded holidaymakers home, and if no answer is forthcoming the Agency will begin to take steps of its own.
On Monday morning, the FCA also issued a ban on sales of package trips by Alma Tour.
Finnish Consumer Agency
Alma Tour (in Finnish)