Australian Business Traveller reader Tsz Shuen Au (Candy) was frustrated when she tried to cancel her flight to Tokyo booked through Flight Centre, only to be asked to pay a $990 cancellation fee.
"I've booked a ticket to Tokyo with Vietnam Airlines for $1016 next month (15 April) through Flight Center, Town Hall, Sydney. They told me they need to charge $990 to cancel my ticket to Tokyo despite this being a natural disaster situation."
"I feel this is very unreasonable; they are making so much money from this disaster — very unfair to customers."
Australian Business Traveller contacted Flight Centre head office in Queensland and asked if they would reconsider the charges.
We pointed out that all airlines were offering flexible travel arrangements for all travellers, even those booked on discount economy tickets, and allowing flights to be cancelled and held in credit for future travel.
We also reminded Flight Centre that the Australian Government had issued a warning that only essential travel should be undertaken to Tokyo, and Australians in Tokyo should leave the area as soon as possible.
To its credit, Flight Centre responded very quickly. Public Relations Manager, Deana Puglisi had the issue under investigation in less than an hour, and in less than three hours, responded that Flight Centre would waive the fees.
Flight Centre will waive cancellation fees on flights travelling to/from Tokyo before May 10, 2011, as per the conditions specified by Vietnam Airlines.
Customers who wish to make a change to their booking can do so before April 10, 2011.
This policy came into effect on Monday, March 14, and I believe this customer visited Flight Centre Town Hall last week.
It is important to note that all airline policies are continually under review and being updated as the situation unfolds in Japan.
Feel free to direct Candy back to the store to discuss this with her consultant.
Puglisi also confirmed that Flight Centre's company policy was to waive its own travel agency cancellation fees for customers if travel providers were waiving theirs.
Despite Candy's initial difficulties with Flight Centre, this statement of their policy is encouraging.
Australian Business Traveller recently covered the case of Troy C, who was slugged $2,000 in cancellation fees by West Australian travel agent Best Flights during the Queensland flood crisis.
Best Flights did not willingly waive these fees, trying numerous times to claw back fees from Troy before eventually agreeing to waive them.
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Dan is a tech enthusiast who frequently qualifies for enhanced airport security screening due to the number of cords and gadgets stuffed into his cabin bag.