COVID travel chaos CHOICE finds refunds take months, if you can get one

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In direct accounts of how they tried for months to get their money back, frustrated consumers report “phone lines ringing,” “being left on hold for three hours,” and “confusing call center prompts. As well as chat functions and telephone hotlines for complaints being removed from websites.

An elderly participant recounted categorically refusing a refund from Webjet, which only distributed gift certificates. “After a lot of emails and complaints we were given vouchers with an expiration date of 04/02/2023 which is OK except that I am now 81 and who says I will be able to travel so, ”said the participant.

While 47 percent of survey respondents received their refund within one to three months, 53 percent waited three to six months, or more.

Insurance didn’t work either

And although eight in ten people (83%) purchased travel insurance before the pandemic hit, their coverage ultimately failed to provide the protection they needed.

“Waiting more than six months for a refund is far too long, even under pandemic conditions,” said report author Alison Elliott.

“Looking at the experiences of over 4,400 Australians, we saw some major problems that governments have the capacity to solve. We need stronger and clearer consumer protections to help Australians have the confidence to book travel in the future. “

Recent closures, including that of Greater Sydney, are a strong reminder that “the problem is not going away,” she said.

The report calls for the creation of a specific ombudsperson for the travel and tourism industry based on the public opinion that greater consumer protection is needed, where it was felt last year than in Australia only there was $ 10 billion in canceled vacation money left to return to consumers. .

The credit and voucher system has also come under criticism, with most respondents saying they are unlikely to be able to use them.

“Many people are now grappling with inconvenient limitations on travel vouchers and unfair solutions to a problem they did not cause,” Ms. Elliott said.

“Just like the European Union and the UK, we should have clear rights to reimbursement when travel plans are canceled.”

The main recommendations of the report also include the creation of a mandatory industry code for all airlines and major travel providers, the creation of a travel and tourism industry ombudsperson and obtaining by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for a market study on the travel and tourism sector.

Standard “Required Information” must also be provided at time of booking.

Choice also wants a national website on travel restrictions. Last year, federally funded Tourism Australia created a special COVID-19 secure travel tab, but many Australians wouldn’t think of checking it when booking travel.

In response to the report, the Australian Federation of Travel Agents noted that its members have worked hard to recover around $ 7 billion in credits and refunds so far, with an additional $ 3 billion in arrears.

AFTA also stressed that “consumer funds do not depend on the travel agent. The consumer pays for the reservation with the travel agency who then pays the supplier (airline, hotel, tour operator, etc.) so that the ticket or reservation is confirmed. It is the final supplier and not the travel agent who holds the funds.

Of course, there are many different shop policies. In addition, some countries have imposed rules on end suppliers that do not allow refunds to leave their country.


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