Angry travel customers want refund fees ditched
Exclusive: Irate jetsetters who have been dudded on getting their travel booking money refunded have caused a 3000 per cent surge in complaints to the consumer watchdog.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has received more than 6000 reports relating to COVID-19 travel disruptions involving bookings made using third-party companies and airlines.
Chair Rod Sims is demanding embattled booking chain Flight Centre - one of the most complained about travel businesses - further cut hefty charges it is applying to customers wanting full refunds.
"The complaints are about lack of refunds, paying a fee to get the refund, short horizons over how long the credit is and delays on refunds," he said.
Just last week Flight Centre tried to numb the pain for consumers by lowering its refund fee from $300 per passenger for international bookings to a flat, capped rate of $600 for two or more customers.
Domestic travel cancellation fees will be capped at $100 per booking rather than $50 per person.
Students Zoe Rumble, 20, and partner Noah Churches, 21, have a European holiday booked in June, which they can no longer take due to travel restrictions.
The pair shelled out $5000 on two return tickets but have been told by Flight Centre they must pay a $600 cancellation fee if they want a full refund.
"It's dodgy to charge us to pay a cancellation fee at all," Ms Rumble said
"The flight isn't going to run so we are not the people cancelling it, it's the actual airline."
Mr Churches said he was worried about Flight Centre's future and did not want a credit.
"You just don't know if Flight Centre is going to go bust," he said.
While another disgruntled traveller Michael Tsoukalis, 36, from Melbourne's Burwood said he had spent $5300 on return flights to Europe for his family of four and the $600 cancellation fee was excessive.
"I want Flight Centre to treat customers with respect and to issue full refunds or heavily reduce their cancellation fees," he said.
Under Flight Centre's existing terms and conditions if customers travel plans have been cancelled they can get a credit through until December 31, 2021.
If they want their money refunded in full at the end of this period they can do so without incurring fees.
Mr Sims said Flight Centre's cancellation fees were still too high.
"We've had an enormous number of complaints about Flight Centre, we've been engaging heavily and yes they've made a decision to cap the refund fee but we still don't think that's good enough," he said.
"We are pressing them to go further."
Mr Sims said consumers with non-refundable fares should be pushing further for a credit far enough into the future so they can use the money available.
"Nothing irritates people more than getting offered a credit you can't use, that just opens up the wound and pours a bucket of salt in," he said.
Flight Centre spokeswoman Anna Burgdorf said it was a "stressful situation" for those involved and they were working with the ACCC on resolving the issue.
HOLIDAY BOOKING TIPS
1) Check the terms and conditions when you made booking.
2) The terms and conditions cannot change after the booking was made.
3) If you have a fare that was non-refundable, push for a credit which allows you plenty of time to use it.
Originally published as Angry travel customers want refund fees ditched