Mercury Holidays is refunding eight bookings amounting to more than £22,000 after agents hit out at hefty last minute price hikes.

Travel Weekly reported in this week’s magazine that a number of agents had been told their clients – and in some cases themselves – would have to pay hundreds of pounds more for bookings made months ago due to a “pricing issue”, or face cancellation.

Kelly Westerman, of The Holiday Crew in Leeds, was one such case.

She cancelled her own booking for Mauritius after Mercury informed her alternative flights were needed and would cost up to £1,000 more.

The operator said it was human error that led to her flights being “drastically” underpriced.

On Thursday national sales manager for Mercury Holidays and Sunspot Tours, Richard Greenaway, said eight bookings connected to this issue are being refunded.

“This amounts to over £22,000 – a loss which we have incurred to show our goodwill to our partners and clients alike,” he said.

However Kevin Connell, director of Ember Travel in Ewell, Surrey, had his clients’ £4,500 Vietnam and Cambodia tour cancelled altogether by Mercury Holidays 17 days before the May 7 departure date.

Greenaway said: “There was just one booking that was cancelled due to minimum numbers not being reached on an escorted tour and an appropriate outcome is being reached as we speak.

“We do not feel it necessary to involve Abta in this matter.”

The issues came to light when one agent reported on Travel Gossip that Mercury had asked her clients for an extra £852 per passenger for a surprise holiday to Mauritius in December.

In a previous message posted on Travel Gossip and sent to Travel Weekly, Greenaway said: “May I take this opportunity to express my sincerest apologies that a number of highly valued travel agents and customers have found cause to complain, following recent issues that were a result of a human error.

“When putting our package holiday prices together last year, a number of pricing errors were made with regards to our flights, which meant certain holidays went on sale at incorrect prices.

“These pricing issues were realised approximately 4–5 months after the bookings were made and as soon as they came to light, the issue was rectified so no further bookings with this error would be made.

“We understand that we have deeply disappointed the customers who have been affected and we initially ensured that we refunded the entire holiday cost, any related holiday costs (visas, credit card charges, car parking etc) and offered a discount off a future holiday with us.

“We would like to reassure all travel agents that a series of safeguards have been put in place to ensure that an issue of this nature does not occur again, and that customers can be certain that the price they pay at the time of booking is the final price.

“We are committed to providing all our travel agents and clients with a superior level of customer service and we would like to once again apologise as this expectation has not been met on this occasion.

“We are working hard to restore their faith in our company and hope that we will be given the chance to prove our integrity once again.

“Our team of field sales agents will be out and about shortly visiting branches of travel agents that we work with.”