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Customers furious after Flight Centre refuses to waive fee

από Roxanne Banvard (2020-05-07)


http://www.qtellperfectmatch.com/457/posts/119-Property-Services-/4484--Outdoor-Dining-Area/73608-The-Management-Trust.html, http://www.qtellperfectmatch.com/457/posts/119-Property-Services-/4484--Outdoor-Dining-Area/73608-The-Management-Trust.html; Would-be travellers who were grounded when the coronavirus crisis locked down international borders are livid with travel agency Flight Centre for refusing to budge on 'ridiculous' cancellation policies.

While airlines were quick to refund the full cost of flights, holidaymakers who booked trips through Flight Centre have found themselves an additional $300 out of pocket.

According to the terms and conditions of the booking agency, a $300 per person cancellation fee is taken to cover the cost of staff and making the booking.

But thousands of frustrated customers have told Daily Mail Australia they don't believe the terms have been met, considering it was Flight Centre's own suppliers - the airlines - who cancelled the trips. 

Meshelle Capulong, a 26-year-old graphic designer from Green Vale in western Sydney booked a trip of a lifetime through Europe, the UK and Dubai for April this year.

She, her sister and a friend had been saving for the holiday and booked last October, well before the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe.






Meshelle Capulong (right), a 26-year-old graphic designer, and her sister (left) booked a trip of a lifetime through Europe, the UK and Dubai for April this year before the coronavirus crisis







The Garnero family (pictured) also told Daily Mail Australia they were left out of pocket $1,500 after Flight Centre refused to refund the full cost of their flights


They were well aware of the $300 cancellation fee, but believe it shouldn't apply given the circumstances.

Ms Capulong told Daily Mail Australia she made weekly inquiries with Flight Centre and Topdeck for five weeks prior to the cancellation.

She was told time and time again that there was no chance her trip would be suspended.

'By March 9, I asked again because it was getting pretty serious - particularly in Italy. This time, I was told ''if we cancel the trip for any reason, you will get a full refund for the cost of the trip'',' she said.

Two days after that message, which was sent by the official Topdeck Instagram page, they announced all tours were cancelled.   

Ms Capulong, who lost her job as a graphic designer, was counting on a quick and easy refund process to keep her on her feet without any source of income.

When Flight Centre did contact her days later, she was told she must accept either a voucher - which had an expiration date - or pay a $500 fee to Emirates, followed by a $300 fee to Flight Centre, to get her refund.

'We booked this trip in the first place only because we got a limited deal that made it affordable for us at the time... That is our own money we should be entitled to get back considering we now have no income to live off,' she said.






The pair have travelled in the past but were particularly looking forward to this holiday

















Ms Capulong told Daily Mail Australia she made weekly inquiries with Flight Centre and Topdeck for five weeks prior to the cancellation. She was told time and time again that there was no chance her trip would be suspended


'This is a shock to everyone, we are completely understanding of that, but we are losing a total of $2,400 in cancellation fees for a trip that has already cost us more than $24,000. 

'Flight Centre has done nothing but add to the exhaustion and stress this situation has put us through... It is ridiculous to me that they can basically rob us of our money.'

Ms Capulong said she couldn't accept a travel voucher from any of the companies involved due to the volatility in the industry at the moment and the very real possibility that more companies - like Virgin Airlines - would collapse in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. 

But Flight Centre's Global Media & Investor Relations Manager Haydn Long told nine.com.au the policy was in line with other travel agencies, and exceptions were being considered in some circumstances.

'Customers can leave their money on file to be put towards future bookings, without being charged any fees by Flight Centre,' Mr Long said.

'If customers request a refund, charges do normally apply, although they are being waived or reduced in some cases.

'These charges, which are outlined in our standard terms and conditions, reflect the fact that our people have performed the service requested of them in booking products for customers and the significant time involved in processing and securing refunds from airlines and other suppliers.' 

Another angry customer claimed the business changed their terms and conditions in the wake of the crisis to ensure they could pocket extra cash. 

A man whose parents are struggling to get their refund said after examining the hard copy booking sheet, he believes what the company is doing is not justified. 






Topdeck travel told Ms Capulong she would be entitled to a full refund should her trip be cancelled







According to the terms and conditions of Flight Centre, a $300 per person cancellation fee is taken to cover the cost of staff and making the booking


'Cancelled bookings may incur supplier fees... which [the customer] agrees to indemnify us for the amount of that fee,' the terms read.

But he said in these circumstances, airlines had made it clear there were no supplier fees and full refunds had been issued to Flight Centre.

He said it now appeared the business was trying to combine that clause with the customer cancellation clause - in which the customer is subject to a fee if they choose to cancel their trip.

'People are not 'cancelling' their own trip. Flight Centre's supplier has cancelled the trip... They are now trying to link the two clauses together and inform everyone a fee applies for a cancelled trip even by their supplier,' he said. 

'This is totally dishonest and unacceptable.'  



Primary school teacher Michelle Garnero told Daily Mail Australia Flight Centre in Dapto was withholding more than $1,500 from her family after her booking to the United States was cancelled.

She said she was verbally told they would be receiving a full refund from her booking agent, before that woman was subsequently let go and she began dealing with management.






The Bonham (pictured) family had booked to travel with the Garnero family before the coronavirus crisis grounded flights


An initial email told them they would lose a fee of $100 per person for the refund, but that number was later changed to $300 per person.

Ms Garnero doesn't believe they should be able to take a cent from her, because while the terms and conditions stipulate potential 'cancellation fees' - she didn't cancel anything.

'We have not cancelled anything at all... The airlines stopped flying and the government put a travel ban in place,' she clarified.

The airlines and accommodation have all refunded the full amount to Flight Centre, but the company is fighting to keep a portion to cover the costs of the work that was put in to making the booking.

The family were offered a credit, which must be used in full by July 2021, or a refund less the $300 per person. For a family of five, that equates to about $1,500.

'We tried to offer what we thought were reasonable solutions. First we said we'd sacrifice the $100 fee per person, which is what was initially offered to us,' Ms Garnero said.

When that was rejected, they offered to pay $600, to cover the cost of both the adults. They thought it was fair they received the full money back for their children, who are all aged under 10. 

'They had no interest in supporting my family in any way,' she said,

Ms Garnero said she would have considered taking a credit had the company not been 'continually sacking staff and closing doors across Australia.'

'How do I know they won't go bust in that time? Then I'd lose nearly $8,000,' she said. 






Now that Ms Capulong is out of a job and would prefer the money in her account rather than a credit note for a future holiday


The primary school teacher has requested a refund out of the two options given to her, but will be pursuing the additional $1,500 charge, which she believes is rightfully hers.  

 David Swiggs also told Daily Mail Australia he feels ripped off by Flight Centre.

The father-of-three saved up for two years to take his family on a holiday to Europe, but has been left bitterly disappointed by the treatment he's received.

Mr Swiggs told Daily Mail Australia despite the airline offering a full refund for cancelled flights, they're facing excessive fees from the travel agent and a lengthy wait time to get their money back.

'Flight Centre is wanting to charge us $1,500 for flights that have been cancelled,' he said.

He said the entire process is causing unnecessary stress on his family during an already difficult time. 

'My wife is in an essential industry, providing out of home care for children removed from their families by child protection. I'm trying to work from home while home schooling the 3 kids under 14,' he said.

'It is just adding to the stress. Working from home. Having to home school the kids. Then to think that some company thinks it can basically take our money.' 

A spokesman for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) confirmed they were aware of the situation. 

'We have been engaging closely with Flight Centre and have spoken and written to them requesting information to understand whether they consider they have a right to charge these fees,' the spokesperson said.






The terms and conditions (pictured) currently separate the differences between a customer cancelling a trip and a supplier cancelling




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