How I got my airfare money back

GOOD old customer service goes a helluva long way.

Qantas - tick.

Virgin - cross.

Like millions of Australians, I had flights booked for an upcoming holiday. There were three of us booked to go from Melbourne to Broome in June, do a road trip I've always wanted to do through the Kimberleys and end up in Darwin. But that isn't happening now.

So I hit the phones and wanted to get my money from these two airlines back.

First step was Qantas. I had three tickets booked totalling $1200. I didn't want a credit because it remains unclear when we will be able to travel again.

When I rang their call centre they had an excellent call back service so I didn't have to wait on the line.

About an hour later I got a call from Nicky in Hobart.

She couldn't have been more helpful. I told her I wanted a refund and she said she'd do what she could.

When Nicky looked up my flight she could see it no longer existed - strange - but she said this was good news for me. It meant I was entitled to a full refund on the three fares.

It would take two to six weeks to get my money back but it was coming my way.

She couldn't have been nicer and it made me make one certain decision: When I'm in the position to book with Qantas again I will.

Their customer service was rock solid.

Adelaide Airport appears practically empty after 750 Qantas staff have been put into quarantine and all Virgin flights have been cancelled. Photographer: Emma Brasier/AAP.
Adelaide Airport appears practically empty after 750 Qantas staff have been put into quarantine and all Virgin flights have been cancelled. Photographer: Emma Brasier/AAP.

My next step was to call Virgin. I had three flights booked with them from Darwin to Melbourne, totalling $1500.

The overseas call centre worker - based in the Philippines - immediately made me wonder why I wasn't getting someone in Australia to help me with my request.

This comes back to the argument about why should the Australian Government bail them out when customers are speaking to employees based overseas. Go figure.

Anyway, that aside, I asked for my money back.

I didn't want a credit with the airline because, as I said honestly to them, I was concerned the company could well fold and my credit wouldn't be worth the paper it was written on.

This may well be the case as the company is now in voluntary administration.

While the consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, says it depends on what type of fare customers have as to whether they can get a refund, what concerns me is the fact big companies like Virgin can hold on to their customers' money to keep their own business afloat.

If Virgin did the right thing and gave me my money back, it's moves like this that speak volumes.

But withholding the cash, giving me a credit and leaving me in limbo is not the way to go. I now have to wait about four weeks to find out whether they will buckle and give me my cash back.

sophie.elsworth@news.com.au

@sophieelsworth

Originally published as How I got my airfare money back



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