A Melbourne woman’s extensive battle with online travel agency company Webjet has sparked calls for better consumer laws to give customers better protection from being misled.
Per news.com.au, Tanya Hanouch has spent the last 33 months in a confusing, blame-shifting stoush with Webjet and Qantas over two flights she had to abandon due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Ms Hanouch bought the flights in January 2020 for June that year. Then when she and her partner were unable to fly, she tried to get them refunded from the online travel agency.
She’s been on countless calls, email chains and online chats ever since to try and get the $2000 returned — considering the missed flights were out of her control — with little success.
“Webjet fed me all sorts of reasons why they couldn’t give me a refund,” Ms Hanouch told news.com.au.
“They hadn’t done the right thing by the customers and I think it’s just a way of holding onto people’s money.”
The 40-year-old Bentleigh woman was told by the travel company to contact Qantas who then referred her back to Webjet. She was then told she could only receive a credit for her flights which barely would have covered half the price of a new return trip to Phuket.
Ms Hanouch eventually reached out to consumer advocate Adam Glezer after going in circles for “well over 150 hours” with Webjet and Qantas. An experience that left her incredibly frustrated.
Qantas told Ms Hanouch and Mr Glezer that a full refund could be offered but Webjet would have to apply for it on Ms Hanouch’s behalf — something she hadn’t known the entire time she had been speaking with the travel agency.
“I managed to find out that all along Webjet haven’t applied for a refund on my behalf,” she said.
“It’s almost deceitful. I was disappointed.”
It’s absolutely wild to think that both of these companies didn’t say anything constructive until an advocate — a male advocate — became involved in the process. Not everyone would think to bring in a consumer advocate, so how many of us are getting done out of eligible refunds simply because we’ve been worn down by the bureaucratic process?
Mr Glezer believes the Australian consumer laws around airlines and travel should be more like the United States, where a customer legally has to receive a refund for cancelled flights — no matter the reason.
“The only person that actually suffers in this situation is the customer,” Mr Glezer told news.com.au.
“There is still a significant number of people battling to try and get money back that they paid pre-pandemic.
“It’s that simple. That way there will be no grey areas or situations, like Ms Hanouch’s, in which a travel agent can say she is not entitled to a refund because it is the law in the country.”
Mr Glezer said the travel industry is in dire need of regulation and he’s gotten a bunch of complaints from customers dealing with the same blame-game tactics as Ms Hanouch.