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COVID-19 Prepaid Airline, Accomodation & Tour Refunds, Rebookings

Travel agent wants to charge me airline commission on my cancelled flights. I can’t find information as to whether this is normal. Can anyone help?

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Welcome to the .community @Denise,

Is it a commission or is it the aggregated cancellation fee?

If you cancelled the agent and the airline may have separate fees charged. If the airline, it seems fees would be waived as a matter of good will. In these days of now Level 4 Travel restriction it would seem a terrible business practice to levy them, but some consider business is business. If you cancelled because of the Level 4 (declared this morning) it would be unconscionable to be charged but I doubt illegal.

Some independent agents work on the basis of a retainer, say $150-200 that is creditable against bookings they make on your behalf. No bookings and the $150-200 is for their time. Again, keeping that under the current environment would seem a really bad look, but still probably not illegal.

Flight Centre’s policy is typical.

  • Cancellations to Domestic/Trans-Tasman bookings will incur a fee of $50 per passenger per booking in addition to supplier fees.
  • Cancellations to International bookings (excluding Trans-Tasman bookings) will incur a fee of $300 per passenger per booking in addition to supplier fees.
  • If you wish to change or cancel flights booked online and paid for using PayPal, you must contact our Online Customer Service Team on 1300 733 867. Any fees for such change or cancellation must be made via credit card and will attract the applicable credit card surcharge.
  • For international and cruise bookings only : If customers choose to keep the full amount of their booking on file for future travel, we will waive the Flight Centre cancellation fees. Please note that supplier cancellation fees may apply.

Supplier Change and Cancellation Fees:

Cancelled bookings may also incur supplier fees, which can be up to 100% of the cost of the booking, regardless of whether travel has commenced. Supplier fees may also apply where a booking is changed and when tickets or documents are re-issued. Where we incur any liability for a supplier cancellation fee for any booking which you change or cancel, you agree to indemnify us for the amount of that fee. Where you seek a refund for a cancelled booking for which payment has been made to the supplier, we will not provide a refund to you until we receive the funds from that supplier.

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After booking a cruise with Royal Caribbean through Flight Centre we find that Royal Caribbean have cancelled all cruises for the safty of its crew and guests with a full refund to all guests. I know find that Flight Centre are not as generious. They are charging a cancellation (service fee) of $300.00 per person. Thats more than and 10% commission.
When questioning the fee the Manager of the agency said she did not like to call it a cancellation fee it was more of a service fee.
I understand that they have done a service for us by booking this cruise but really $300 per person.
I will definately re-think of how future bookings are done

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Welcome to the .community @tomandjudy1,

That is pretty rich when the vast majority of service providers are taking care of their customers by waiving fees or special casing cancellations and travel policies w/refunds under these unprecedented times, and this especially as the provider is cancelling not yourself.

I would not accept this position and lodge a formal complaint with the FC office as well as their national office. They provided a service; at the least they should be willing to apply your $300 toward a future booking made through them,

The Travel Agent Code of Conduct (5) might be useful as a reference.

Please let us know how you go.

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In the article Flight Centre closes 100 stores across Australia due to business impact from coronavirus fears CEO Graham Turner said “We’ve got $1.3 billion in cash on our balance sheet so we’re feeling fairly strong, but there’s no doubt in the airline, tourism and travel industry it’s going to be a tough few months,”. So they aren’t cash-strapped.

Write a letter of complaint addressed to Graham Turner clearly explaining that you should not be penalised by being charged service fees of $300pp because of the COVID-19 situation. Ask him to respond within say 10 working days. Include in the letter that Choice is interested in the response you will receive, and also you are considering writing to your local Federal Member.

If Graham Turner does not reply favourably, or does not respond within the allocated time, write to your local Federal Member about this issue including the letter you sent to Graham Turner. The Prime Minister has been vocal about businesses not profiteering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and to me this can easily be viewed as profiteering.

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Hi everyone.
We are flying to the Uk in June, or at least were meant to be. I’m heeding the general advice out there at present to wait before even trying to contact Expedia to cancel as I am hearing horror stories…most airlines (inc Virgin Australia) seem to offering travel credit against cancelled flights or where the traveller chooses to cancel BUT I am wondering…is it still possible to choose to pay the cancellation fee and receive the balance as a refund?
I don’t particularly want the credit as i’ve been stung by that in the past and we won’t be rescheduling our trip as it was for an birthday event which will now not be going ahead. Also, I am concerned that airlines will be going broke over this and the credit won’t be much help. Any thoughts?

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Welcome to the .community @Nicolar,

Assuming the reason for your trip is cancelled, whether the world reboots ‘life’ by June is irrelevant to your query since if the reason is cancelled you don’t need to go regardless.

We might be able to give better advice if you include the airline and fare type and unfortunately the Expedia website help page seems broken right now. They do have a banner stating ‘due to the unprecedented volume of travel disruptions refunds can take 30 days to process.’ and a ‘find out more’ hotlink, that like everything else on the page is currently inoperative.

Part of the answer lies in the ticket you purchased, non-refundable, flexible, etc that is a baseline. Another part is how the airline you are booked on is dealing with flights during the mid-term. Some are being very good and others less so.

If the airline cancels your flight(s) you should expect or demand a cash refund option; if you cancel it before they do you might only be able to get a credit, and that depends on the fare you purchased as well as the airline’s policy. Whether Expedia will levy a fee of their own remains hidden in the currently inoperative pages but it would be a bad look if they slugged their customers for the world essentially closing.

FWIW an example of being surprised on the upside, A US family member was coming in May and had travel insurance. QF offered a voucher or refund and the insurance, Allianz, sent an email to all customers with policies for travel in April-May with options to cancel with full refund, or to be able to change the dates. The whole out of pocket is $20 for the ETA that might yet be used before it expires. I hope your cancellation experience is as good.

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Hi Nicolar

I have moved your question into a thread with other related issues to do with travel bookings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advice provided to other similar questions is wait till much closer to the departure date, say early May as airlines and booking agencies are all overwhelmed at the moment dealing with travellers caught out right now.

The available options may change significantly between now and early May.

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Thanks so much @TheBBG and thank you for the welcome.
We were flying Virgin Australia on a Singapore Airlines plane and had booked through Expedia! Triple Whammy. VA are saying on their website that we could now get a credit to their Travel Bank but the original fare rules from when we booked state that a $260 pp cancellation fee would have been charged. My preference (down the track when it closer to the date) would be to get $4000 back and pay the $500 cancellation fee as I don’t really think the credit is going to be much use to us.

So, my question is, do we have that choice given the original fare rules on the booking per VA’s website under “Manage my Booking” or does the new COVID-19 policy override it?

Expedia’s fare rules on the other hand under “My Itinerary” then say the fare is non-refundable and to assume full forefeiture of the ticket but also say that the airline rules apply. So, in other words, it all contradicts itself.

I’m not going to call for a while as there are many far worse off than us but I am interested in the whether or not we still have that choice and keen to know my rights?

Thanks

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This is convoluted enough to bring in @JodiBird, Choice’s travel expert!

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Thank you @TheBBG. Quite frankly it’s probably all hypothetical as it all relies on being able to get through to Expedia or VA at some point down the track anyway or will be stalking to find the Expedia Australia CEO and write directly :slight_smile:

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Hi @Nicolar.

Virgin Australia’s COVID-19 policy should apply, although my reading is that it complements as opposed to overrides their standard compensation policy.

The key difference between the two policies is their standard policy explicitly states you can ask for a refund if the airline cancels your flight. The COVID-19 policy leaves out that little detail. But from what we’ve heard, if you press them on it (and quote their standard compensation policy) you may be able to get a refund instead of a credit note, if your flight has been cancelled.

If your flight hasn’t been cancelled, then your options will either be to cancel and incur a fee as per your original fare conditions, or take up Virgin’s credit note offer for flights before 30 June.

I’m not sure if Singapore airlines have cancelled your flight yet, but Singapore have banned international transit today, and I think that includes in-airport transit. So if that ban holds until June, then your flight would have to be cancelled.

Having said all that, you will likely have to process any request via Expedia, Virgin’s flight conditions should override Expedia’s, but you may need to quote Virgin Australia’s policy to the Expedia agent.

As for when you cancel, I’m in a similar situation, with a flight booked on Singapore airlines in mid-June. I’ll wait until late May to take any action. Generally speaking, if the airline cancels the flight, I think you have more options than if you want to cancel your flight.

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OMG you are a wonderful human thank you! that all makes total sense. Thank you thank you:)
I did discover today however that I can also lodge a disputed transaction with the bank if I am unable to get hold of Expedia and potentially get a full refund that way as Expedia have not rendered the services I paid for as a travel agent, as I cannot get hold of them. But I need to do that within 90 days of the original booking so May 8. Also concerned Expedia may go under although they were fairly liquid before all this and there are plenty of horror stories out there about them now.
Thank you so much again
Nicola

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If you have an online Expedia account or email contact, have you tried emailing or online chat? I understand they moved to work from home at the start of last week, and acted independent of the shutdowns planned for Vic and NSW. Probably not the only business that has done so, given the risk of loosing a large number if one employee turns up a positive test in a regular office style work place.

It must be very difficult for all given how rapidly everything is changing.

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Hi there,

My family had a reunion booked on the Gold Coast over the Easter school holidays (we are from Melbourne). We booked through flight centre with Virgin Australia. It was a large group booking (18 of us). When we contacted flight centre to change the flights, they said virgin will only let us move the dates as far as 20th of August 2020. If we want to fly after that, we will only be credited 50% of the flight fee. (So if we reschedule after 20th Aug, they want us to pay another 50%, plus taxes). This has made no sense to us as there have not been any terms and conditions listed anywhere stating such a tight limit on rebooking flights. We were hoping to go in 12 months time (same time next year).

Is anyone else finding hidden terms and conditions re: changing flights due to Covid 19? Flight centre told us to contact virgin direct for a better deal, but then when we contacted Virgin they said they can’t help us, we must go through the booking agent… It’s all a big hamster wheel.

Your insight is much appreciated!

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Welcome to the .community @LL77

That is a classic catch-22.

It seems a number of travellers are having issues dealing with Flight Centre, so you are not alone which is cold comfort at best. Virgin’s normal policy is here. however you have FC and their own T&C between you and VA so you could be hit with VA and FC fees.

If you have not found it yet, VA’s COVID-19 change of plans policy is here.

They direct to their ‘hub’ which then directs to your travel agent if you used one because the agent ‘owns’ all aspects of your ticket. Notice the cancellation and rebooking options shown, though.

You might check the costs to just cancel and rebook when you are ready, perhaps doing it directly so as not to encounter a similar problem in future.

Sometimes an agent can be very helpful and get one out of strife or navigate complex arrangements (I use one for RTW tickets), but if it is booking a domestic flight for 18 why not try doing it direct next time? Hotels might take a bit more effort, but same applies if you have the time.

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Wise words BBG, it certainly is more complicated that we can only travel at the same time next year. Thanks for the link to the covid policy - will have a look now. Normally we would have booked direct, but with so many people it seemed better to do it through an agent. Never again! Thanks again for your thoughts.

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Being now in the tourism sector, we have been faced with scores of booking cancellations…which will have a significant impact on our cash flow in the coming months.

We have cancellation conditions associated with bookings, but have decided to waiver and fees or charges which may have otherwise resulted from a cancellation (particularly those with little notification time).

We understand that the measures implemented by both State and Commonwealth government is no fault of the guests which have booked with us, and as a result, they should not have to be out of pocket for things which are outside their control.

We hope that this approach results in these potential customers booking with us when everything returns to normal.

It would be good if other businesses took a similar approach and made cancellation of bookings straightforward.

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For this of you who have booked through Virgin, they now (as of 2020 03 25, 7pm) give the option to change or cancel flights (without a fee).

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Hi
I have been offered a credit for tour booked through Tour Radar and operated by Flag Travel Holidays. I really wanted a full refund due to these uncertain times of Pandemic. I can get a partial refund but cancellation fee is 20% or $809. Has anyone had success for a full refund? Our insurance won’t cover pandemic. I wondered if my credit card insurer Allianz might offer a refund of the deposit?

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