Thomas Cook told lesbian newlyweds to just ‘act as siblings’ in anti-gay country

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Travel agent Thomas Cook has apologised “unreservedly” after a lesbian couple complained for being told to just “act as friends or siblings” after being advised to take their honeymoon in a country where being gay is illegal.

Rebecca Harvey and her fianceé told PinkNews they were “pushed” to book a holiday in Tunisia, after a member of staff at the Taunton branch recommended it as a destination.

Saying they did not realise the country had anti-gay laws, she went back to the branch to complain.

She said the travel agent book them separate beds without their consent, and were told to “act normal and keep it to [their] rooms”, rather than being affectionate in public.

When they asked why they were booked twin beds, and why they were advised to book Tunisia, the couple said they were told to just “act as friends or siblings you shouldn’t have a problem”.

Havey told PinkNews: “I was mortified feeling humiliated as they treated me like a third class citizen. I literally felt lost for words and left shaken up. In 32 years I’d never experienced any form of discrimination or homophobia and was gobsmacked that it was coming from such a large company.”

After appealing to the travel agent, and an investigation by Thomas Cook, the couple have been issued a full refund, and the travel agent has offered to provide them “the honeymoon they deserve”, free of charge.

A statement sent from Thomas Cook to PinkNews read: “Thomas Cook would like to unreservedly apologise to Ms Harvey and her partner following their recent experience when booking a holiday to Tunisia in our Taunton store. It is never our intention to disappoint our customers, and we are conducting a full and thorough investigation into the claims made by Ms Harvey. We would like to assure her, and indeed all our customers, that any form of discrimination will not be tolerated.

“The incident in no way reflects the company’s views or values. Thomas Cook does not condone discrimination against LGBT customers, and we are proud that many thousands of gay and lesbian customers choose Thomas Cook as their preferred holiday provider every year. We are also an equal opportunities employer, in the belief that businesses benefit from diversity and an employee population that reflects the customers and communities it works with.

“A Thomas Cook spokesperson said: “Ms Harvey’s experience in our Taunton store was unacceptable. As a company that is dedicated to offering exemplary customer service, the actions of the team members not only let Ms Harvey down, but also Thomas Cook as a whole. We will not hesitate to take the appropriate action pending the outcome of our investigation.

“Once the full story came to light, our customer services team immediately contacted Ms Harvey directly to offer our apologies. Further to these conversations, we reiterated that the actions of these individuals neither reflect the values nor the views of Thomas Cook. As a gesture of our goodwill towards Ms Harvey, we can confirm that we have reimbursed the original amount she paid in full, and are currently exploring options with her with a view to offering her and her future wife the honeymoon they deserve, on us.”

Consensual same-sex relationships are illegal in Tunisia, with “sodomy” being punished with up to three-years in prison.