You may have noticed that children tend to be smaller than adults. So why should a family travelling with children pay more for a villa holiday if the kids take up less space than grown-ups?
I would never have expected it. Yet that’s effectively what can happen when a family books a villa with Thomas Cook.
At Which? Travel we’ve found it can be cheaper to book a self-catering villa full of adults than with a mix of adults and children.
When we came across the issue, we found it was £190 more expensive for four adults and two children to rent a villa in Cyprus for a week this summer than it was for six adults.
This is because Thomas Cook’s villas add under-occupancy fees if a property is not filled to its specified capacity.
And if the official capacity is, for example, six adults, then a booking with four adults and two children will attract an under-occupancy fee. So the family is being charged more for taking children rather than only adults.
Why charge more for children?
I don’t see how this can be fair. The company is not losing out on anything because some of the customers are children rather than adults. There might be a case for it in a hotel if some of the standard rate was based on adults spending a certain amount of money in the bar or other facilities, but not in a self-catering property.
Charging a family more for villa holidays with children in this way seems just as unfair as charging them more if they want to guarantee sitting with their children on a plane, something we know many of you feel strongly about.
Can pretending solve the problem?
When we asked Thomas Cook about this, it said it was the same policy across all of the company’s holidays, but offered us a way round it. This was to list the children as adults to avoid the under-occupancy charge.
This option feels wrong to me and I’d feel uncomfortable lying about my child’s age. But Thomas Cook said it was ‘common practice’ to ensure families got the best price.
The company confirmed that under occupancy charges could ‘rarely’ make child prices more expensive than adults’ because children did not count towards minimum occupancy levels.
It might happen only rarely, but it still seems crazy to me. There must be a better way.