Dad Sidwell, a mental health professional, asked Crusader for support after explanations from the agent, “kept shifting”, he claimed. He bought the tickets on February 2, for them leaving the UK at the end of March. These were cancelled on February 10 and he asked for refund.
He was then furious to be told by Finnair that it had not received an official refund approval request despite him asking DWT three weeks previously.
“We’ve no idea when the money will be paid back,” Sidwell said. “This travel is for work, for me to take up a new post overseas. Fighting to get a refund and potentially compensation, especially when you are far away, is extremely difficult.”
++ If you’ve been affected by this issue or feel you’ve been a victim of injustice, please contact consumer and small business champion Maisha Frost on [email protected]
The Musengezi family’s experience shows how Covid chaos has laid bare the limited, complex rights of air passengers who book through an agent rather than directly with an operator.
Under the EU Denied Boarding regulation, now part of UK law, carriers are required to refund within seven days. But flight-only bookings through an agent depend on its contract terms.
DWT’s state: “Refunds can take anywhere between two and six weeks and in some extra-ordinary circumstances up to six months.”
Sidwell says the company told him his refund may have been processed but not to them and they were waiting for a third-party supplier to do this.
But as far as consumers and official bodies are concerned the agent is the third party in the chain, along with the customer and the carrier. So far DWT has not clarified this baffling assertion.
Finnair has now updated Sidwell confirming it reimbursed DWT on March 7.
DWT told Crusader: “The global pandemic has seen an unprecedented level of disruption affecting the entire travel industry. We are proactively speaking with all affected customers in an effort to assist them to the fullest extent possible.”
Sidwell says he is now considering court action.
Flight bookings – know the rules and protect yourself
Flights through agents can be cheaper – that’s the upside.
However, if you are booking a flight through a third party, check their refund conditions, especially timescales.
Covid has exposed loopholes creating opportunities for refund delays.
Credit and debit cards claims are more difficult when third parties are involved and insurance claims could be rejected if a refund is a likelihood at some point.
Remember with Package Travel Regulations travel agents acting as package organisers are legally bound to refund customers for package holidays cancelled due to coronavirus, regardless of whether or not the agent has received money back from suppliers, for example airlines.