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Flight Centre: Refunding cancellation fees from 13 March 2020

Flight Centre: Refunding cancellation fees from 13 March 2020

Flight centre has been getting a huge amount of stick from the general public about the fees they charge customers for COVID-19 related cancellations.

Background

The standard cancellation fee for an international flight was AU$300, with AU$50 for a domestic flight. These fees have been applied to each flight booking, so you can see if you had booked multiple flight, those fees would soon add up.

Some people have reported that what in Europe is paramount to domestic flights – a flit between adjacent countries, was also charged at the international cancellation rate. The fees were also applied per person, not per booking! You can see how quickly a flit to the UK with a couple of European side trips would soon rack up multiples of those charges.

That they were doing this like a ransom demand, before they remitted refunds is outrageous!

Remember that this cancellation fee is on top of any cancellation fee charged by the end supplier of the flight or hotel room, or tour.

Some customers were getting very angry, as they saw their expected refund disappearing in fees and charges.

ACCC – Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

The ACCC – the main body monitoring consumer protection in Australia has welcomed the announcement that Flight Centre will stop charging customers hundreds of dollars in cancellation fees before they get a refund for travel cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new practice also applies to subsiduaries of Flight Centre including:

  • Aunt Betty
  • Travel Associates
  • Student Universe
  • Universal Traveller
  • Jetescape Travel t/a Byojet Travel

I always wanted to know who owned Byojet. It always looked like a bit of a ‘Dodgy Brothers’ name when it appeared at the end of a Google Flights search – or is that just me?

Complaints-a-plenty

The ACCC has been deluged with 6,000 complaints about Flight Centre’s treatment of customers, and that doesn’t include thousands more that have gone to state based consumer agencies. In turn, the ACCC has ‘encouraged’ Flight Centre to improve its treatment of customers during COVID-19 travel restrictions.  

The ACCC has been playing hard ball, telling Flight Centre that if it didn’t act, the next step would be legal action!

“This is a very welcome move made by Flight Centre for thousands of customers impacted by COVID-19 travel cancellations.

“We are continuing to discuss issues in relation to refunds and cancellations with the travel sector, and encourage travel providers to treat consumers fairly in these exceptional circumstances.

“While we know some consumers are very concerned about getting a refund or credit for their cancelled travel plans, we do ask people to be mindful of the significant impact that this pandemic has had on the travel industry.”

ACCC Chair, Rod Sims

The ACCC is also asking people to understand that travel companies are struggling to cope with the volume of refunds and cancellation conditions they need to parse before issuing a refund during this pandemic.

“We ask consumers to remain patient and be mindful of the significant pressures on businesses at this time and, where possible, contact the business by email or website, rather than by phone.”

ACCC Chair, Rod Sims

2PAXfly Takeout

The conduct of Flight Centre has been pretty reprehensible around this issue, and the public has been quite vocal about its dissatisfaction.

This move by Flight Centre to no longer change these cancellation fees before they issue a refund and to return cancellation fees paid by customers between 13 March 2020 and the present day is welcomed and overdue.

If Flight Centre had done this weeks ago, they would be corporate hero’s. To do it now, just makes them into tolerable corporate citizens.

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