Monday, June 27, 2022

Your Saving Grace: “Last Minute said it couldn’t tell me what the cancellation fee would be”

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Two travelers have taken out a premium package with Last Minute, but have not yet been able to find out what the cancellation fee would be

We booked on and purchased Flex Insurance, an insurance product that reimburses customers if they change their travel plans.

My husband and I booked return flights to Australia for July earlier this year.

I then contacted Last Minute as I needed to cancel our booking but they said they couldn’t tell me what the airline cancellation fees will be until I actually cancel.

How can consumers risk losing thousands of pounds without knowing what the cost will be? Can you help? Ms T., by email

Grace says: The Last Minute situation has left you incredibly frustrated, especially since large sums of money are involved.

You and your husband have booked flights to and from Australia for this summer and paid for premium economy with Qantas via Last Minute at a cost of €3,400 – the equivalent of around £2,900.

Acting as an intermediary between airlines and consumers, Last Minute processes millions of flights and vacation packages every day.

They’ve also paid for Last Minute’s premium assistance package, which their website says gives consumers full flexibility to change or cancel flights, as well as a no-fee service from Last Minute.

However, please note that the airline may charge you fees.

Unfortunately, you entered the dates for the flights incorrectly and therefore had to change both your outward and return journeys.

You checked with Qantas to see if the required direct flights were available, so you called at the last minute to request the changes, which it said would take four days.

However, after the four days you were told that the seats we requested were not available – although Qantas still showed them as vacant.

Last Minute insisted the information you had was wrong. As a result, Qantas informed them that the cancellation fees for the flights would be under €100 and suggested canceling the order and rebooking with the company, but only if Last Minute agreed.

Despite this, Last Minute refused to confirm the cancellation price despite explaining that if the charges are high they could not afford to cancel and needed to know this in order to make an informed decision.

After much back and forth, the customer service team finally agreed to send you a quote.

It stated that although there would be no Last Minute charges due to the premium package, you would be charged £345.

Obviously this was very different from what Qantas had stated and as there were no last minute charges it was left to you to decipher why there was such a big difference and why the third party booking site wouldn’t tell you how high the cancellation is cost would be.

I contacted the company for more information.

A spokesman for Last Minute said: “We have now established that the offer sent to the customer was in fact incorrect. This was because different rules applied to each direction of flights.

“It’s really unusual to get a fully refundable ticket, but when we checked the most restrictive fare that applied to the ticket, we found that this was only a penalty of €100 per person, one-way.

“Therefore they are actually being reimbursed £2,747.85, which is a full refund minus the airline’s penalty and the service package, only charging them for the charges that the airline passes on to us.

“The policy they have taken only waives last minute charges in the event of a change/cancellation and the actual ability to do this always depends on airline policy and availability. All airline charges are still payable and this is stated in the terms and conditions.

“I think the issue here is that when the customer asked to change, they requested a direct flight which is not available for the route/date and for that reason they were told the change was not possible.

“In terms of cancellation, the cancellation policy would have been available when the customer booked and therefore we would not normally make another offer, but in this case our agents agreed to do so.”

Luckily, you get a near-full refund, but it doesn’t make up for the time you spent trying to resolve the issue.

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