Flight Centre finally dumps cancellation fees
Troubled travel company Flight Centre has finally backed down on charging customers exorbitant cancellation fees on bookings they can no longer take.
The Brisbane-based company on Saturday revealed it was waiving cancellation fees where third-party suppliers have cancelled their services because of COVID-19.
Thousands of customers were left outraged when the company was initially charging customers $300 per person to cancel their international bookings in order to get a full refund.
They then reduced to this to a capped charge of $600 for two people or more but this too was seen as too excessive by the consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's chair Rod Sims.
Domestic travellers were hit with a revised capped charge of $100 per booking.
In an issued statement from Flight Centre executive general manager Allisa O'Connell she acknowledged many customers were "frustrated" their holiday plans had been disrupted and they could be "experiencing financial uncertainty as a result of COVID-19".
"Our business and our industry have also been significantly impacted by the unprecedented travel restrictions that have been implemented to slow the virus's spread," the statement said. "However our customers remain our highest priority and to support you at this difficult time, Flight Centre will 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 comes after Mr Sims said he would be pushing the embattled travel group further to lower the fees.
Flight Centre confirmed the dumping of the fees came only after ongoing discussions with customers and regulators including the ACCC.
Students Zoe Rumble, 20, and partner Noah Churches, 21, had a European holiday booked in June which they can no longer take due to the travel restrictions.
They shelled out $5000 for the trip and were told they would have to pay $600 in cancellation fees.Mr Churches said he was relieved about the dumping of the charges but vowed to never use Flight Centre again.
"It means that the hard work we put into that money isn't disappearing," he said.
"But next time I'll book direct with the airline."
It will apply retrospectively to all bookings cancelled as a result of COVID-19 on or after March 13 for which a Flight Centre cancellation fee was charged.
The fee waiver only applies to Flight Centre's fees, not the fees airlines or other third-parties impose.
Flight Centre said they areprocessing refund requests in date order and were focused on bookings for travel up to and including 30 June this year.
The company has also offered credit vouchers of up to $200 per person to customers with international or domestic bookings who choose to take a credit instead of getting a refund.
Flight Centre is shutting more than 400 Australian stores by the end of July to significantly reduce its costs.
Originally published as Flight Centre finally dumps cancellation fees