Many customers left dudded by companies during the coronavirus pandemic will be unlikely to do business with them again, writes Sophie Elsworth.
Many customers left dudded by companies during the coronavirus pandemic will be unlikely to do business with them again, writes Sophie Elsworth.

Dudded Flight Centre customers won’t return

OPINION

WORD of mouth is everything.

And when it comes to providing a great service, if you look after your customers - within reason - there's a good chance it will pay off.

There's one company that probably should have thought about this sooner.

I'm sure Flight Centre deeply regrets being so heavy-handed about charging customers exorbitant fees to get their money back on trips they could no longer take due to COVID-19.

I've used the well-known travel agency many times over the years and their assistance with booking trips has been fantastic.

They can make the holiday experience much easier, doing all the dirty work to get you the best deals, including flights, accommodation and transfers.

But in the past few months there's no doubt their reputation has been left in tatters, all because they stuck to the "fine print".

They thought it was a good idea to maintain the stupidly high $300 fee per person for those wanting to get their money back in full on bookings they could no longer take.

And let's face it, no one reads the fine print.

They then capped this at $600 for two passengers or more but the consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, said that wasn't good enough.

Finally they buckled and ditched the fee altogether.

ACCC Chair Rod Sims said customers who are trying to get significant sums of money back from travel companies may have to engage lawyers.
ACCC Chair Rod Sims said customers who are trying to get significant sums of money back from travel companies may have to engage lawyers.

But the damage is done.

When people talk about Flight Centre now everyone seems to have a negative story, which is such a shame because for so long it's been the main booking centre Aussies use before taking holidays, particularly overseas ones.

The airlines, too, have also come under fire from disgruntled travellers who can no longer take their planned trips because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Many say they've been pushed into credits instead of refunds, which has left a sour taste in people's mouths, particularly now when so many are struggling more than ever before.

Over the past few weeks, my inbox has been flooded with complaints from consumers, all with gripes about their travel companies because they can't get their money back.

They are either being charged ridiculous fees to get a refund or are being forced to accept credits.

Some travellers in their 70s have written to me complaining - and rightly so - that they've been given whopping credits they fear they won't be able to use because of their age, as it's becoming harder to travel as the years roll on.

Even after Flight Centre dumped its exorbitant fees, I had customers telling me it was too little, too late; the damage was done and they wouldn't use them again.

There's no doubt COVID-19 has put immense pressure on businesses and Australian householders' hip pockets.

But once you get burnt by a company - and a significant sum of cash is involved - there's a good chance you won't go back for more heartache.

To tell me your travel problems email me at sophie.elsworth@news.com.au.

sophie.elsworth@news.com.au

@sophieelsworth

Originally published as Dudded Flight Centre customers won't return


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