It doesn’t matter whether you’re a seasoned traveller or first timer, an extrovert or introvert, asking for a refund can be an awkward and uncomfortable experience. Not to mention time consuming, especially if doing it down a phone line. Cue hold music!
Before you begin, gather all relevant information and know your rights. Understand your ticket type and what it entitles you to. Is it a credit voucher, the option to re-book or a cash refund? And check out the terms and conditions on the organisations website for their refund policy.
In fact, Choice consumer advocate Jonathan Brown advises travellers to keep records from the start.
“It’s vital that you keep everything in writing from the moment you enquire and book with travel providers,” he said.
“Whenever you speak to a provider in person or over the phone, request a summary of what was discussed in writing.”
Timing matters when it comes to refunds. In the current environment of COVID-19 related border closures and lockdowns, Brown advises travellers not to act too fast.
“Read the cancellation policy and terms of the provider and wait to see if they cancel first,” he says.
“Who cancels first matters, so sometimes it’s best to wait it out. Sadly, Government imposed restrictions won’t guarantee you a refund.”
Change of mind
If you’ve decided to cancel a trip because you’re worried about the Covid situation, that will most likely be treated differently to a travel company cancelling a trip or tour because of restrictions. This may be seen as a ‘change of mind’, potentially lessening your claim to a refund.
“If you’re worried about your health, book with consumer-friendly travel providers with short cancellation periods, flexible policies and clear refund rights in their terms or pay on arrival policies,” Brown says.
How to get in touch
Some travel organisations are warning of long call times, as the pandemic puts so many plans in flux. It may be more practical to email the organisation, and start a refund dialogue that way. And be patient! There have been multiple lockdowns in the last few months, so that’s a lot of changed travel plans and lot of people calling and emailing.
Where to go for help?
If you don’t receive the outcome you were expecting, or believe you have been treated unfairly, Brown suggests complaining to the business and directing them to the ACCC best practice guidance.
“Advise that if you don’t get a satisfactory response, you will escalate your complaint to the consumer affairs body in your state.”