Flight Centre has been accused of being greedy after charging customers cancellation fees for international flights axed by airlines due as travel restrictions tighten to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
“The only way I can get a refund is to accept a loss of over $4000 altogether,” would-be traveller Maxine Martine said.
Ms Martin and her family had booked the trip of a lifetime to Peloponnese in the south of Greece where her husband was born.
“Any reasonable person would understand that if I decided to cancel, I’d have to pay $300 per passenger. Nowhere on there does it say if the carrier cancels, that you also have to pay that,” she said.
The terms and conditions state that cancellations of travel booked through Flight Centre incur a fee of $300 per person. However, there is no policy for involuntary cancellation due to travel bans.
Another affected Flight Centre customer, Kim Schultz, will cop a $1200 cancellation fee for a family holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia, despite the airline offering a complete refund.
“This is involuntary. We had no choice but to cancel. $300 per person is outrageous,” she said.
A spokesperson for Flight Centre, Haydn Long, said the fees cover time spent processing refunds on customers behalf.
“Any charge that we apply reflects that time. Regardless, though, we are allowing people to cancel and then switch their bookings without charge.” Said Mr Long.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission advises it expects a refund or credit voucher to be offered in most circumstances, however, it warns consumer rights are affected by government-imposed restrictions.
Flight Centre will waiver cancellation fees if customers agree to keep their funds on file to be used within 12 months.
But as Ms Martin’s husband faces increased uncertainty at work, they want their money back for security.
“I’m frightened that Flight Centre will go under, and we will lose our money altogether,” she said.
Flight Centre is in the process of closing 100 branches across the country and standing down 6000 employees as it braces for the financial impact of the coronavirus epidemic.