FLIGHT Centre has been slammed by struggling families for charging them up to £800 to cancel their holidays during the pandemic.
The tour operator is charging AUD$300 (£150) per person for cancelling their holidays even when airlines have already cancelled the flight, leading to hefty fees when travelling as a group.
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David Swiggs, who lives in Australia, was due to travel to Europe with his wife and three kids when his flights were cancelled.
He was then charged AUD$1,500 (£800) to cancel their trip – despite the airline having cancelled beforehand.
David told Daily Mail Australia: “My wife is in an essential industry, providing out of home care for children removed from their families by child protection.
He added that he was now homeschool their three kids, explaining: “It is just adding to the stress.”
Hundreds of furious customers have taken to social media, with a Facebook page titled “Flight Centre – Give us our refunds” set up.
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One man complained that his elderly parents were charged £150 each for their Qatar Airways flights to be cancelled, despite the airline cancelling the May flight.
Another couple, who only paid £300 each for their flights, were also charged £150 each to cancel despite the flight no longer going ahead.
A Flight Centre spokesperson explained that the charge “reflects the fact that our people have performed the service requested of them in booking products for customers and the significant time involved in processing and securing refunds from airlines and other suppliers”.
They told Sun Online Travel: “In Australia, customers affected by this extraordinary crisis can avoid cancellation charges if they accept a credit for future holiday.
“These charges, which are outlined in our standard terms and conditions, reflect the fact that our people have performed the service requested of them in booking products for customers and the significant time involved in processing and securing refunds from airlines and other suppliers.
“If customers request a refund, charges do normally apply, although they are being waived or reduced in some cases.”
“In the UK, Flight Centre is working tirelessly to assist all customers affected by the corona virus and, where appropriate, is offering financially-protected Refund Credit Notes, based on a regulatory framework developed by ABTA. This ensures the customer’s fundamental rights are preserved, as set out by law, where the original booking had that protection.”
Some UK tour operators are refusing to pay refunds to travellers who have their holidays cancelled due to coronavirus.
An investigation conducted by Which? magazine found customers with LoveHolidays and STA Travel were either being offered credit notes or the option to rebook at a future date.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, explained: “It is not acceptable for operators to disregard the law and refuse to issue refunds for holidays costing thousands of pounds to customers who may desperately need the money themselves due to financial pressures caused by coronavirus.”
He explained that holidaymakers should encourage credit notes or rebooking if possible, but are still entitled to a refund.
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