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      16.07.2010 16:31
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      Don't bother - you may as well book independently

      *Just as an aside, I would have said this belonged in the Travel category rather than the Internet Site one, bloody new points system, means I've just spent an hour writing this for precisely nothing!*

      I've used budget airlines more or less since they started out back in the days of Buzz and Go - remember them? As long as you know that you get what you pay for and know how to ensure you don't end up spending a fortune on the 'extras' I think they're grand for what they are and give you the opportunity to see places you wouldn't otherwise be able to, and my boyfriend and I still use them a couple of times a year when visiting cities around Europe.

      As well as our culture vulture trips though, we do like to have a cheap week in the sun for a bit of R&R (city breaks are wonderful but exhausting aren't they?!), and we normally book these as packages with a tour operator, so that all we have to do is turn up at the airport on time and the rest is taken care of. This year however we were having trouble finding something with any of the big tour operators that suited; due to weddings and work we only had a 10 day window in which to have our holiday and being in the North East we don't have as many options of airports or destinations as some of the bigger cities. And then we thought about Jet2 Holidays - they fly to a wide variety of destinations from Leeds and are ATOL protected. So we booked a week in Menorca at the end of June.

      The booking went smoothly and I was sent all the information we would need by email and printed it out. They give 22kg luggage allowance which was more than ample for a week so there were no worries on that score. Everything went smoothly at the airport and we were given allocated seats when we checked in so there was no crush of people trying to get on the plane so they could sit together. So far so good.

      Realisation dawned when we landed in Menorca and walked into arrivals. I was (reasonably I think) expecting to see a Jet2 rep, wearing a red Jet2 uniform, who would tell us what to do next. But nothing. We wandered out to the front of the airport but still nothing. So I approached a random lady who just happened to be holding a clipboard, saying "Jet2?" and making a sort of shrugging gesture which I hoped would be international for "Where the hell are they?" She asked our name and there we were on her list! She gave us a map of the island and told us what number bus we needed outside, and sure enough there were a fleet of little mini buses waiting to take holidaymakers to all four corners of Menorca. I was surprised to find that it was a third party operator and that no-one had so much as a Jet2 logo upon their person but nevertheless we were transported safely and without incident to our hotel.

      Once there, we were left to liaise with the lady on reception. It was a small hotel and luckily she was there at the time - I noticed during the week that sometimes the reception wasn't manned and there was a telephone number to ring if you needed anyone - I wouldn't have been happy having to do that on my mobile roaming tariff upon arrival! But the lady was very lovely, spoke excellent English and we were happy in our room ... until later that day when we tried to take a shower and found we had only a dribble of water. We went back to the lady and she gave us the keys to another apartment and the water was OK, but no electricity. We went back again and third time lucky, it was fine. Now I know that problems in the hotel are not the tour operator's fault, but my point is, what if every room we went to had something wrong with it? Who could we have complained to?

      We were lucky that our holiday ran smoothly from then on, but what if one of us had fallen ill/needed to get home/been robbed? We had also researched the island and had an idea in our heads of the things we wanted to do while we were there and how to get around the island, but not everyone does this and there was no welcome and orientation meeting. I imagine families with young children will find it easier to go on tour operator excursions, although I don't myself, but there was none of this.

      The last thing that I was not happy about was that we were given a slip of paper with a number on when we arrived at the airport, and were told to ring up the day before we departed to ask what time we would get picked up. Luckily, the lady on reception was a good friend by this stage and when we asked if we could use her telephone rather than one of our mobiles, she offered to make the call for us. This was really helpful as I didn't fancy having such an important conversation in bad Spanish/bad English, knowing as a former language student how easy it is to make mistakes with numbers and times.

      As I keep saying, we were lucky on this holiday in that we are quite independent travellers anyway, and we had no major issues during our stay, but I wouldn't go with Jet2 Holidays again because you just don't get the same support as you do from a real tour operator.

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