CHOICE membership

Avoid shonky lastminute.com.au package deals at all cost!


#1

I was looking for a holiday deal to Fiji to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and so searched lastminute.com.au because it has a comprehensive map search facility. Lured by beautiful hotel pictures, I selected a package deal (flight and hotel) at almost $7000. The booking process allowed some choice of room selection, and then presented a set of recommended flights, arranged by departure/arrival times and surcharge. The flight destinations included the airport but gave no indication about the proximity between it and the selected hotel.

Not being familiar with South Pacific geography, I chose the top flight recommendation and received a confirmation letter, advising me to contact the hotel to discuss transfer. At that point I realized that the flight booking was to Noumea in New Caledonia, 1200KM from the hotel in Fiji. It would cost about $4000 to fly the family from New Caledonia to Fiji and due to the timing would require overnight stays along the way.

I attempted to contact lastminute.com for remediation. After five calls ,2.5 hours on hold and three weeks of waiting (in which not a single call was returned), I finally received an email advising that the escalation team did not deem this a site error and therefore could not refund the flight. In short they had nothing to advise.

We have travelled extensively in Europe with lastminute.com and always had good service. However, this is the most shonky behaviour I have ever seen from a travel site and I’ve reported it to the Office of Fair Trading


#2

Welcome to the community and sorry to hear of your trouble. Note that responses are not offering legal advice nor making judgements on the validity of situations, and only point one to potentially useful references. It appears you had previous good dealings with lastminute.com.au so had expectations regarding their service, but were let down. To wit

Booking holiday travel is a service, and in some contexts might be considered a product depending how packaged, and the Australian Consumer Law states products and services must be provided to a standard. I suggest you read the Australian Consumer Law if you have not already, regarding services. An extract is

Services must be provided with acceptable care and skill or technical knowledge and taking all necessary steps to avoid loss and damage
- be fit for the purpose or give the results that you and the business had agreed to
- be delivered within a reasonable time when there is no agreed end date.

Consumer guarantees on products and services also apply to:
- bundled products and services
- online products and services bought from Australian businesses

As more of us become our own travel agents there are ongoing reports of eg. travellers holidaying in Sydney Nova Scotia Canada rather than Sydney NSW Australia. While the problem was caused because you did not do diligence regarding airport locations, the problem situation was your inability to contact lastminute.com.au to remedy your flights, whether or not with penalties.

Read the T&C from lastminute.com.au for relevant clauses, digest the ACL and send a formally written letter of complaint to lastminute.com.au with return receipt to show they received it. There are templates available from various sources on the net to guide one. Be clear in stating the problem, quote their T&C where applicable as well as the ACL where applicable, how you claim they failed, and close by stating exactly what you want with a reasonable time for them to respond.

Some things you might include are claims from their web site, such as 'With 24/7 customer support ’ that appears to be questionable, as examples of evidence.

In many cases offices of fair trading will ask you for that paper trail as evidence you could not resolve the problem, before they might agree to step in.

If you are a Choice member and need assistance navigating your rights and the processes Choice Help might be able to assist, especially if not time critical. The form to ask for Choice Help is here.

Good luck getting it sorted to a reasonable outcome. Please let us know how you go.


#3

@TheBBG has provided some good advice.

This is one of the ‘problems’ with booking ones own holiday through online booking sites. These are booking sites and not full service travel agents. The level of service is quite different.

While I have not used lastminute.com.au, most booking sites immediately prior to payment provide the information of the flight booked and often get one one check and confirm the details before moving to the next step, that being to make payment.

If one had used a full service travel agent, the travel agent would have checked (rather than yourself) that the flight details and everything else associated with the booking was correct. If the full service travel agent (like those at shopping centres) made the Faux pas, then they would be liable for the mistake.

Because one did not check the details thoroughly before confirming and making payment does not necessarily transfer the responsibility to the booking service website.

The only avenue I can see that may be productive, if you can provide that lastminute.com.au recommended this flight specifically for the accommodation package that you selected for Fiji. One would need website screen shots showing such. If this was that case, then one could argue that the booking service for this accommodation package provided by lastminute.com.au was not fit for purpose, which is one of the protections provided by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). One would have to prove that it was lastminute.com.au that provided the specific recommendation for the flight for the accommodation in Fiji. Using the same website for both bookings does not indicate a specific recommendation.

If you had selected the wrong destination thinking the flight was suitable or clicked on a website advertisement advertising cheap flights and accidentally selected the wrong destination resulting the the flight to the wrong destination being booked and paid for, then this is unlikely to be covered by the ACL. (or say credit card purchase insurance).

Did they provide information on conditions of cancelling booked flights? If they didn’t, you should look into cancellation conditions of lastminute.com.au and the airline you have booked to to Noumea. Usually cancellation is possible especially with full fare tickets, but their will be a financial penalty associated with the cancellation. The later one leaves the cancellation, potentially the greater the financial penalty for the cancellation as the airline is less likely to find a replacement passenger for the same flight/seats.

Also see if the airline also flies to Fiji and enquire the cost to change the ticket from Noumea to say Nadi. You may find it cheaper to change the ticket than cancelling and rebooking new tickets.

Let us know how you get on.