CHOICE membership

It pays to make a complaint: my experience with Flight Centre

It always pays to make a complaint if you’re unhappy with the service or product you received and you think that you’re entitled to a remedy under the law.


I booked a rather complex itinerary through Flight Centre last year for my end of year holiday (Sydney to Africa with a stopover in Asia on the way back). I wanted an agent to find the best value fare, but I also am coeliac and require gluten free meals. For complex itineraries it’s easier for me to get an agent to request the meal from all the airlines (I flew four different airlines) than doing it myself.

I made a slight change to the itinerary well before I left, and somewhere along the way, the agent forgot to request the gluten free meal on the last flight.

So, from Guangzhou to Sydney (after coming off a 3 hour flight from Beijing) I had no food on board. I can’t eat anything in the airport as I can’t eat Chinese food. Needless to say I was grumpy and hungry when I got to Sydney 10/12 hours later.

Upon my return I made a complaint to my agent, under the consumer guarantees. I wrote to Flight Centre (corporate as the agent had since left the travel industry) and argued that the service (which included making the meal requests) was not what was agreed upon. As such I expected to compensated for damages/loss.

Flight Centre replied to me within a few days and offered me a $200 voucher as a remedy, which I accepted. This is more than I was expecting and they also offered to continue negotiations if I’d didn’t think a voucher was appropriate.

All in all - it is worthwhile complaining if you didn’t get what you paid for/what was promised as a part of the service! It’s your right under the Australian Consumer Law.

Would love to hear other experiences like this from the community - or maybe times when you tried to get a remedy and weren’t offered one?

NB: I made the complaint through my personal email account and made no reference to my employment at CHOICE

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sounds like an outcome that we all can or should expect if the service is less than expected ! Well done

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Recently flew Virgin Adelaide To Perth. At booking with Flight Centre was told a cost of $120 will be incurred for change to booked flight. Now this sounds like a huge effn ripoff!!!

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@tdvivian yes I encountered this change fee - it’s a bit steep if the change isn’t too complicated but unfortunately it’s in their T&Cs. This is one of the hazards if booking with a third party (don’t be fooled by online sites like expedia, they are also classed as “agents” just without the bricks and mortar).

We always recommend booking direct with the airline where possible. The worst is that you get hit with double fees - from the agent, and from the airline. I guess it’s the price you pay for having someone do something complex for you (as in my case above). Not that that makes excessive fees OK!

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I had excellent service from Flight Centre when the organised tour I had booked in Rome failed to pick me up as was promised. Flight Centre refunded the price immediately and presumably chased the operator. I didn’t get the tour of course, but when I realised what I’d missed out on (a queue of buses following each other around the city to landmarks) I actually think that I had dodged a bullet. I walked the route instead.

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Just an added note for anyone who has had a problem with a travel agent and hasn’t been able to resolve it, you can make a follow up complaint to the Australian Federation of Travel Agents.

If you agent is accredited, you can make a complaint through the ATAS scheme and they will assist in mediating your complaint.

Find out more here: https://www.atas.com.au/what-is-atas/learn-about-atas
Make a complaint here: https://www.atas.com.au/provide-your-feedback

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@bronwastaken nice one. If it’s not too hot, walking’s a great way to see Rome.

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It is easy to get around Rome by walking, bus and metro. It could be unusual to find yourself somewhere in Rome where nobody speaks English.

It is not so easy to use Flight Centre. The last time I did they insisted on seeing my drivers’ licence. I haven’t had a drivers’ licence since 1986, as I have a vision impairment. I told them that insisting on a drivers’ licence is discriminatory and that in any case if they wanted me to fly the plane I’d need a pilot’s licence. After they insisted that my passport was not adequate as an ID I booked the same flight directly via Singapore Airlines’ website, at a cost of several hundred dollars less than what Flight Centre quoted, and without having to produce any kind of ID over a counter. A little research will save your a lot of money.

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We flew from Brisbane to Beijing, took train across China, Mongolia and Russia then flew to London back to Singapore then home. Flight centre did the booking and Singapore Air were most helpful treating all flying sections as one flight. However got to Brisbane airport to find no air ticketing Brisbane to Beijing. Late Friday night and no one on call at Flight Centre would answer phone. The staff at the desk issued the boarding passes as I had receipt showing it had been paid for but they were unsure if the Chinese staff at Singapore would accept the made up passes for that section. We were nervous the whole flight. I phoned from Beijing and complained. I was assured all would be checked but arrived in back Singapore to no hotel booked for 3 nights. An Indian festival was on and we could only get a hotel far out. Be sure you check every single ticket if you use Flightcentre as I just assumed it was all in order. When they say they will check the rest of your booking just be wary!

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That’s my experience too with flight centre. I booked a luxury break on the Rocky Mountain and ended up with really sub standard accommodation on a stop over. My agent was no use at all and failed to return calls and emails. I complained to Head Office and after investigation was given $1000 voucher which I used against a cheap flight to the U.K. As well as an apology I was given the name of a different agent who I was told would give me excellent service. She did.
Tip. Get Flight Centre to price match your next flight, even if you save only $1 they then wave the credit card fee on that purchase.

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I had a lousy experience with a Flight Centre some years ago (person dealing with our trip went on holidays without handing over stuff to anyone else, and every time I called to say "It’s getting close, where’s our stuff?’ they just brushed me off, didn’t bother to find out why it wasn’t ready yet. When I finally DEMANDED it be done days out from travel, only then they figured it out. Luckily I checked all the tickets carefully after we finally got them, as there was one flight leg missing!). When they sent the feedback form after the trip I related all this, and received no apology, indeed, no reply at all.

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In April last year, my wife and I paid the deposit on a two week group tour that would take place in December, plus requested an extra week of accommodations and separate flights, through NRMA Travel in Sydney.

We had two major issues with the service we received. Firstly, the consultants that made our bookings continually came up with excuses as to why they weren’t making the accommodation and flight bookings for us. Months rolled by, emails were ignored, promises made but not fulfilled, and we got to the point where we knew there would be limited choice, and we’d be paying top dollar for everything. We would have been better off arranging everything but the group tour content by ourselves.

The second issue was that the group tour was fully escorted, BUT the NRMA tour escort was untrained and inexperienced. We were ill-informed and misinformed. Members of the tour were left out of activities, and left behind. We can almost laugh about it now, but it was very stressful at the time, especially for older members of the group.

I complained in writing to the NRMA CEO. Initially, it seemed that they sympathized with us, and even responded asking how much of a refund we would like. But then they came back and only offered a credit (equal to around 3% of our total spend with them) against a booking of further international travel with them in the next 12 months.

We’ve told NRMA that we can’t afford to travel again internationally in the coming year, and that their response is more akin to a sales drive rather than a refund. We’re still waiting for a response.

I discovered that NRMA Travel is not a member of AFTA, although other motoring organisation travel agencies such as RACV and RAA South Australia are.

UPDATE: No sooner had I written this post, than I got an email from yet another person at NRMA. They say that they are now considering making an offer of a refund. I’ll post another update soon, I hope !

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Glad to hear Flight Centre has improved it’s refund service. Several years ago booked a spontaneous holiday package to Thailand. Was charged for all the extras that were ‘included’ - pick up from airport, breakfasts, etc Had to send numerous letters to head office before refund made.

Some years ago, I was making one of my first ever solo flights. Being a nervous, young, wary female, I went with Flight Centre (for a quote), but doing some internet research, found the same flight cheaper through another provider. I asked Flight Centre to price match, which they said they would, but did not have a final ticket for some days. When the ticket was finalised, I was now paying over and above what I would had I gone with the other lot, but that price was no longer available with the alternate, as it was date limited. I had fortunately screen-shoted the total price as well as the cost breakdown from the other provider, and proceeded to insist they honour the original cost. This was finally done grudgingly but I later discovered they had lost all the FF info off my details, as well as all my food preferences (I was vegan at the time for health reasons). Fortunately, I was able to update directly with the airlines, and fixed it all for myself. It pays to be extremely vigilant (my family sometimes call it something less polite, but my Dad is worse than me for checking and rechecking every last details).
I no longer deal with Flight Centre at all, it left too sour a taste in my mouth. I agree that mostly, the best deals are gained booking directly with the Airlines, the only trouble is sometimes having to call Singapore or Canada to get the requisite detailed service, as the local agents can’t seem to manage the FF details and variety.

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Everyone’s post has made an interesting read for me as I have just used Flight Centre to book our family holiday to America. The complication is our adult daughter is in a wheelchair. I worry about the flights. I worry about getting her up/down the stairs if it is that system (not all airports walk through the tunnel to board) and I worry about the hotel room disabled facilities. There will be three adults there to help her, but we are baby boomers and have our own ageing body problems. :slight_smile: I guess I won’t stop worrying until we finish our trip and are back in our own home. Gosh, I hope everything turns out okay because we want to go to the UK next. Yes, this is our first holiday in 25 years, since our daughter’s birth. I do hope it will be as perfect as it can be.

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@nerrel.loader, I spent some time working in the hotel industry and found most reputable hotels were really excellent with their treatment of guests in wheelchairs. On top of this, as an Australian who has travelled extensively in the States, the hospitality and friendliness of the locals is topnotch. I sincerely hope this is your experience too, and at the least I hope this info helps ease your worries a little :slight_smile:

Have a great trip!

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Hi Brendan
Thank you, that does help alleviate my worries a little. Many thanks! :slight_smile:

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To echo @BrendanMays, the service in America is amazing. One great example is Disneyland/world - with your daughter you’ll be able to skip all the queues and they will go out of their way to assist. I wasn’t so keen on Disneyland, but a friend wanted to go, I was so surprised that I absolutely loved it. Airlines and airports also have obligations under bilateral agreements (the agreements that let airlines fly between two countries) on how they handle passengers with a disability. I’ve heard from people researching this area that the treatment and service between Australia and the USA is particularly good - you should have no problems!

On another note, we’re hoping to do some work on accessible tourism this year. Do let us know how the holiday goes as I’d love to hear about your experience.

Have a wonderful time!

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@BrendanMays is right about Americans being the most gracious and hospitable mob you could imagine but regardless, be wary if any seem too friendly as there are lots of scam artists too. Since you have not travelled in 25 years become familiar with US tipping culture before you go. Many service workers there literally live off tips.

Also, posted prices in the USA are all exclusive of sales tax, and tax is a local and state issue, and sales taxes can vary from one side of the street to another if municipality lines are crossed. eg a coffee for $2.95 will cost more like $3.23 with tax, and you start understanding why Americans hang onto the otherwise worthless 1 cent coins.

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Wasn’t keen on Disneyland? :confused:

Glad that got sorted :smile:

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