Emails from Australia’s largest travel retailer have revealed a big-shot cruise operator “would not be able to stay afloat” if they offered full refunds on every trip cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The correspondence, seen by NCA NewsWire, comes after a Newcastle pensioner who bought a European river cruise for his wife’s 50th birthday tried to get back the $28,026 he paid after the dream trip was cancelled.
Scenic offered Jon Jones full travel credit until December 2022 or a 50 per cent refund of $12,837.
But Mr Jones said he could not take up the future travel offer due to a fluctuating auto-immune condition.
He also said his wife Shelly had battled two bouts of breast cancer, and travelling in the future “could never be a certainty”.
“How can Scenic sting us for 50 per cent of what we paid or hold all of our money for more than two years when we never cancelled the trip?” Mr Jones said.
“We both have challenges with our health – we don’t know what’s going to happen in two days’ time let alone two years – it’s just too risky for some unknown party to hold our money for that long.”
Mr Jones said he was then directed to get the rest of the money through his travel insurance, claiming $10,284 – but that left $5104 outstanding.
When Mr Jones tried to get the money back via Flight Centre, who he booked with, he was told in an email: “You would have to wait until the credit is about to expire to get the cash refund.
“The reason they (Scenic) are doing this is because during these difficult times if they refunded everyone, they would not be able to stay afloat.”
But Scenic was adamant there were “no further outstanding issues” regarding Mr Jones’s matter.
“Our records show that Mr Jones requested a cancellation and has received a refund from Scenic – as per our relevant policies,” spokesperson Anthony Laver said.
“We also provided Mr Jones with a letter to make a claim from his Cover-More travel insurance.”
Flight Centre explained the couple had bought “cancel for any reason” insurance cover, only allowing the Joneses to claim 75 per cent – leaving $5104 outstanding.
“Unfortunately, in this case, Mr and Mrs Jones are subject to the (terms and conditions) of the service provider, Scenic, who charge a 50 per cent fee for a refund, rather than opting for the full credit,” spokesperson Anna Burgdorf said.
“In Mr Jones’s case, as he does have an auto-immune condition, we’d strongly recommend that he provides us with a clear statement from a medical professional which would allow us to go back and advocate on his behalf with Scenic, which we’d be more than happy to do.
“We certainly sympathise with Mr Jones and his concerns over not being able to use the Future Cruise Credit offered by Scenic, and many providers do have a hardship clause which may allow us to secure a better outcome.”
Adam Glezer, a consumer advocate who runs Facebook group Travel Industry Issues, questioned how the Joneses could be slugged with a 50 per cent cancellation fee.
“Keeping a customer’s money on the basis that you tell them you can’t afford to pay them is unacceptable. Have they considered whether Jon can afford it?” he said.
“Jon has paid good money for a service, hasn’t received it and should be refunded in full.”