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Raw Deal: Couple demand refund for cancelled flights to Australia

© Shutterstock / Brett GinsbergMelbourne, where Jack and Danielle hoped to emigrate
Melbourne, where Jack and Danielle hoped to emigrate

Jack Macnab and his girlfriend have been waiting 17 months for a refund on flights to Australia that were cancelled because of the pandemic.

The couple, from Edinburgh, had their plans to emigrate to Melbourne postponed in March 2020 due to travel restrictions.

However, they have joined a queue of thousands of customers who are still waiting for their money back from travel companies for trips that were cancelled more than a year ago.

Delivery driver Jack, 21, and his partner Danielle Devlin, 20, had paid £1,040 for two flights to Melbourne via travel comparison site GoToGate.

They were due to start a new life in the Australian city, where Danielle has family.

“I have never been to the country before and was really looking forward to it,” said Jack. “It was very disappointing that everything had to be cancelled but I thought it wouldn’t be a problem to get our money back for the flights.”

Instead, Jack said the couple were told by GoToGate that they were entitled to vouchers to spend on new flights.

“I was shocked when they said if I wanted a refund it could take between six weeks and a year,” he said. “This is a joke. We want our money back.”

Jack and partner Danielle
Jack and partner Danielle

Watchdog the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has written to more than 100 package holiday firms to remind them of their obligations to comply with consumer protection law, and has secured refund commitments from a number of holiday firms, including Love Holidays, Lastminute.com, Virgin Holidays, TUI UK, Sykes Cottages and Vacation Rentals.

The CMA is also investigating whether airlines have breached consumers’ legal rights by failing to offer cash refunds for flights they could not lawfully take due to the pandemic.

While waiting on a refund from GoToGate, Jack and Danielle last year then forked out for two more flights to Australia – this time with Emirates – but these were also cancelled at the last minute.

“We were told at the check-in desk at Glasgow Airport that travel advice to Australia had suddenly changed again and we couldn’t fly,” he said. “We were devastated that this had happened to us twice.”

Emirates, however, said their flights would be valid for the next two years and the couple intend to use these to move to Melbourne in 2022.

At the end of their tether trying to get their cash back for the original flights, the couple wrote to Raw Deal.

We contacted GoToGate on their behalf. The company responded, however, by simply saying they are still working on issuing refunds.

“Due to the current situation, the refund handling time will take longer than normal,” the firm said in an email. “We are unable to specify an exact time frame for refunds as each airline also are under a massive workload, but we will of course do our very best.”

The CMA recently announced it had opened enforcement cases into British Airways and Ryanair to find out if they may have broken consumer law by failing to offer refunds for flights customers could not legally take.

Chief executive Andrea Coscelli said the organisation would continue to put pressure on travel companies who they believe have been dragging their heels over issuing refunds.

“While we understand airlines have had a tough time during the pandemic, people should not be left unfairly out of pocket for following the law,” he said. “Customers booked these flights in good faith and were legally unable to take them due to circumstances entirely outside of their control.

“We believe these people should have been offered their money back.”