The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has welcomed a decision by Flight Centre to drop fees for customers cancelling bookings around the COVID-19 pandemic and to refund clients who have already paid cancellation fees.
In a statement, Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) executive general manager Allisa O’Connell said the group would “waive its usual Cancellation Fees for bookings where the travel provider (eg airline, cruise line or tour operator) has cancelled its service and you are unable to travel as a result”.
The decision to waive fees comes after feedback - and some criticism - from customers, as well as regulators, including the ACCC.
Along with axing cancellation fees, FCTG will refund charges “to bookings cancelled as a result of COVID-19 on or after 13 March 2020 for which a Flight Centre Cancellation Fee was charged”.
The waiver does not include conditions that airlines and other third party suppliers impose.
“Our people will, of course, continue to perform the time-consuming task of processing refunds and following up with individual suppliers on your behalf,” Ms O’Connell stated.
“We are processing refund requests in date order and are currently focusing on bookings for travel up to and including 30 June 2020.”
In a further announcement, O’Connell said the group would also offer a “credit voucher of up to $200 per person to customers with international or domestic bookings who choose to keep their money on file with us”.
This is in addition to an already existing complimentary Captain’s Package (per person), valued at $49.
The credit vouchers will work as such:
- $2,000 pp of FCTG credit equals $50 pp voucher
- $4,000 pp of FCTG credit equals $100 pp voucher
- $6,000 pp of FCTG credit equals $150 pp voucher
- $8,000 pp of FCTG credit equals $200 pp voucher
In a statement, the ACCC said the announcement would “provide faster relief for consumers than would have been likely to have resulted from any court action”, a move the commission was preparing for.
“This is a very welcome move made by Flight Centre for thousands of customers impacted by COVID-19 travel cancellations,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“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.”
The ACCC says it has received more than 6,000 complaints from consumers dissatisfied with travel companies’ refund policies and cancellation fees.
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