Irish couple's American Holidays honeymoon dreams shattered after son's injury leads to no-refund cancellation
Newlyweds Lee and Colleen Finlay should have been enjoying the first few days of their dream honeymoon this weekend.
Instead, they are spending every waking moment beside the hospital bed of four-year-old son Spencer, who broke his leg in a freak accident the day after the Belfast couple's wedding.
And to add insult to Spencer's injury, Lee and Colleen have been informed by their travel company that they cannot be refunded the cost of their planned fortnight in the United States - leaving them facing a loss of £4,000 (€4,720).
They claim American Holidays in Belfast actually suggested they avoid losing their money by going on the trip anyway... which would mean leaving Spencer to fend for himself in hospital.
"It has been a complete nightmare," said Lee.
"Our wedding last Saturday was the best day of our lives but the following day, when Spencer had his accident, was one of the worst.
"Colleen and I haven't spent a night at home together since we got married.
"We've been putting a brave face on it because Spencer hasn't been well but there have been times when both myself and Colleen have broken down in tears."
He added: "We keep thinking of where the three of us should be right now."
A spokesman for the travel firm said the company is dealing with the matter.
This time last week the happy couple were celebrating their nuptials with family and friends at Orange Tree House in Greyabbey and looking forward to the trip of a lifetime.
Today they are trying to focus on keeping their young son's spirits up -rather than dwelling on the honeymoon they've been denied.
When they booked the £4,000 (€4,720) package with American Holidays last June, the Finlays had presumed that such an expensive holiday - which takes in San Francisco, California and Las Vegas - had built-in safeguards.
But following Spencer's admission to the Ulster Hospital, after breaking his leg while playing football just five days before they were due to fly on May 4, Mr Finlay (32) was told the trip was "100% non-refundable".
"I called the company to explain what had happened to Spencer and to try and reschedule a time when my son would be fit and well to travel," Lee, a chef assessor, said.
"They asked me if I had travel insurance and when I explained I didn't because I hadn't been advised I needed this at the time of booking I was told there was nothing they could do."
Mr Finlay said that when he was then sent an email by the company, asking him to confirm that he wished to cancel his honeymoon, he phoned back to say he was unhappy with how he had been treated.
"Someone from American Holidays then called me back and began pricing the holiday re-schedule for August or September," he said.
"I was told that it would cost another £3,000 (€3,540) to do that, which means I was totally priced out of the trip anyway."
Mr Finlay said that the news has been devastating for his 31-year-old wife, Colleen, a make-up artist, and Spencer, who is now missing out on a surprise visit to Disneyland in California.
"At no point during the booking of the holiday were we told that we needed to buy coverage, or offered the possibility of purchasing any," he said.
"When I asked American Holidays about this after everything that has happened, they said they don't sell holiday insurance in Northern Ireland.
"The upshot of it all is that I am now being forced to cancel our honeymoon and it looks like we're going to lose the full £4,000."
In the midst of the young couple's concern about Spencer - who will remain in hospital until next week - and their crushing disappointment over the honeymoon, Mr Finlay said he wanted to warn other people that this can happen.
"I just don't want anyone else to fall into this trap," he said. "We used all our savings to pay for our dream honeymoon only to be left with no money and no holiday. It's extremely disappointing. We're heartbroken."
Chris Clingan, Reservations Supervisor at American Holidays and Travelmood, which is based at Lombard Street, said he didn't comment on individual cases.
"Due to privacy we do not discuss the details of individual bookings but we are actively engaged with Mr Finlay to come to a resolution on this matter," he said.
"American Holidays strongly recommends all travellers to take out travel insurance at the time of booking."
Consumer law expert and solicitor Fiona Donnelly said that customers should be made aware of the terms and conditions at the point of sale.
"People should be aware that they should take out travel insurance at the time of booking and anyone who is selling a holiday should advise clients of that," she said.
"But most importantly, clients should be told when the booking can't be changed or cancelled because that's information that is relevant and it should be given at the time of booking."