© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

No refund in sight for many airline customers

Caitlin Rawling
Air New Zealand Plane
Air New Zealand Plane  Flickr

Travel agencies are in strife after thousands of people have come forward with not receiving refunds on cancelled bookings.

People are frustrated with flight and booking agencies including Air New Zealand, Expedia and Airbnb about their handling of refunds.

Several people have reached out to Metronews to share their experiences while cancelling travel plans due to COVID-19.

Christchurch-based marching team Empire was set to go to Auckland in March for the National Marching Championships. 

The team fundraised over $5000 for accommodation and have been unable to get their money back from the hotel they were set to stay at.

The marching group contacted their local MP, Matt Doocey, who managed to get their flights refunded with Jetstar, however, they have come to a standstill with the accommodation.

Spokeswoman Keryn Cawood said it was unfair the hotel refused them a refund because they had not cancelled 30 days prior.

How is it possible to cancel 30 days out when there is a global pandemic and we had no idea that lockdown was to happen?”

The marching team has contacted community law to try and resolve the issue.

Another frustrated customer said Air New Zealand refused to give her a full refund on a flight she had booked for her child’s father to visit them in Sydney, in April.

The airline offered her a credit of $860 (AUD) but she said this was not feasible as her current partner had lost his job to COVID-19 and had to travel back to New Zealand, meaning her ex-partner’s flight to Sydney was of no value.

She asked Air New Zealand if she could change the credit into either her name or her daughter’s instead of being in her former partner’s name.

The agency told her they were unable to do this, which she said was unfair as she had purchased the ticket.

Air New Zealand told Metronews they were crediting or refunding customer tickets according to the fare product purchased and local regulations in the country in which it was purchased.

“We’ve recently extended our fare flexibility for COVID-19 related credits for flights between 24 January and 30 June 2020. The increased flexibility means that credits obtained as a result of COVID-19 are now valid until 30 June 2021. The customers then have a further 12 months to travel from the time of booking."

Consumer NZ said if a customer bought a fully-refundable ticket, they should be reimbursed by the airline, although if something happens which is out of their control, such as a pandemic, they may only be able to offer a credit.

“Our view is that the law needs to change, to better protect humans.

"It needs to be more like the European Union, where flights are refunded when they are grounded, regardless of the reason."

Expedia and Airbnb are yet to comment on the matter.