The company giant, Flight Center, asked the family to pay $ 2,100 in cancellation fees to process a $ 1,600 hotel refund for Disneyland travel that was not possible due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Aviation Center has attracted widespread anger over the handling of trips that were canceled due to the pandemic, which triggered many complaints to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and state-based consumer authorities.
The company has given customers the choice: take an eligible credit voucher until July next year, or pay Flight Center a cancellation fee of $ 300 per person to request a refund from each of the different hotels, airlines and tour operators.
Hallie Hill, from the Gold Coast, was forced to take a coupon or pay $ 2,100 in cancellation fees to get a refund of $ 1,600 in accommodations for seven of her family’s trips to Disneyland, booked last September.
“Because of the number of people in your booking, this will consume the entire amount returned,” Flight Center told Hill in an email seen by the Guardian. “This means the best case scenario is to leave the amount in credit for you to use on every future trip for bookings until July 1, 2021.”
Hill said there was little opportunity to be able to use vouchers for new trips booked in the middle of next year.
His 72-year-old father is caring for his mother, who has autoimmune disease and thyroid cancer.
Even if travel restrictions were relaxed in mid-2021, Hill said it was almost impossible for his father to travel, given the concern for the elderly who contracted Covid-19 and the difficulties experienced by the family in making arrangements for his mother to be seen. after.
“[My mother] always dreamed of going to Disneyland, so he wanted to send his grandchildren to Disneyland, “Hill said.” But he can’t travel. “
“He must leave it, and who intends to guard it?”
Flight Center has asked Hill to provide medical advice that confirms his mother’s condition before considering further problems.
It also said it could not process a refund of $ 7,000 for flights with Fiji Air, because the tickets could not be returned and the airline did not offer a refund because of Covid-19. It has offered families credit coupons for flights, but Hill is not sure whether the airline will even be available within 12 months.
The story of Hill is not unique. Customers flocked to the Facebook page – “Flight Centers. Give us a refund of our money! “- to vent their frustration with the cancellation fee.
Earlier this month, the Aviation Center announced it had taken extraordinary steps to survive the Covid-19 crisis, which had plunged its business into chaos. He negotiated a fully guaranteed $ 700 million capital increase, another $ 200 million guaranteed from existing lenders, and closed around 40% of Australian retail outlets. It aims to cut annual operating costs by $ 1.9 billion from July.
A spokeswoman for the Flight Center said the cancellation fee was outlined in the standard terms and conditions and its position was “not unique and in line with many other travel companies in the current environment”.
“[They] reflects the fact that our employees have performed the services requested from them in ordering products for customers and significant time in processing and getting refunds from airlines and other suppliers. “
The spokesman said processing refunds was “a time-consuming and intensive process” that normally takes up to 12 weeks in a normal trading environment.
“In the current climate, and with airlines reducing staff and reducing services, this period of time is being pushed out,” he said. “Where we received a refund earlier, we followed up on it.”
Hill independently approached the owner of the hotel where he booked. The company indicates willing to pay a refund, but needs to be processed through the Flight Center.
Choice travel specialist, Jodi Bird, said in many cases, it was acceptable to charge reasonable cancellation fees.
“But an Aviation Center is a good example of being charged per person, per policy,” he said. “So that’s quickly multiplying if you have a partner who has booked flights and accommodation through the Flight Center, you suddenly get $ 1,200 in cancellation fees, which is very much.”
The ACCC has issued guidelines for the travel sector, saying that customers must be treated fairly.
“If your trip is canceled, the ACCC hopes that you will receive a refund or other compensation, such as a credit note or voucher, in most circumstances,” the suggestion said.
to request modification Contact us at Here or [email protected]