Nobody reads a travel agent's terms and conditions ...
until they cancel a flight and ask for a refund.
Travellers quickly discover that lurking in the fine
print are cancellation fees. Not one but two sets of
cancellation fees - the first, the airline's cancellation
fees, the second the travel agent's cancellation fees. What
fees do they charge?
The Airlines: Qantas and Emirates charge a $375 per fare
if the passenger cancels. If the airline cancels a
flight and cannot offer suitable alternative arrangements,
then it does not charge a cancellation fee if the
cancellation is within its control.
The Travel Agents: Flight Centre and Helloworld have
exactly the same cancellation fee policy: Cancellations to
International bookings (excluding Trans-Tasman bookings)
will incur a fee of $300 per passenger per booking in
addition to supplier fees (and credit card fees). The fee is
charged regardless of whether it is the passenger or
the supplier (i.e. the airline) who cancels.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic has introduced a new
factor. That is, travel bans and border closures have
resulted in flight cancellations outside of the control
of both the passenger and the airline.
As a result of Government and consumer pressure, most
airlines have dropped (waived) their cancellation fee. In
the US, the Department of Transport has ordered airlines not
to charge a cancellation fee for flights cancelled because
of travel bans and border closures. In Australia, Qantas,
Emirates and other airlines have done the same.
But what about the travel agents? Flight Centre insisted
upon charging its cancellation fee of $300 until 2 May 2020,
when overwhelming pressure from the public and the
Australian Consumer watchdog, the ACCC, resulted in Flight
Centre waiving its cancellation fee for flights cancelled
because of travel bans and border closures. Flight Centre
will now provide full refunds of airfares.
That overseas holiday you booked doesn't look so
attractive now that the Government has labelled every
country including New Zealand - Reconsider your need to
travel, is closing borders to cruise ships and is requiring
self-isolation for 14 days on return to Australia.
Can you cancel your travel plans? Of course you can. But if
you do, Will you receive a refund? That is what we're about
Airlines, cruise lines, tour operators, resorts and hotels
all have cancellation policies in their terms and
• Airfares are refundable, less a cancellation fee, if they
are a flexi fare. But if they are a budget fare, no refund
is given if the ticket is cancelled. For flights to 31 May
2020, Qantas and Virgin are waiving these strict conditions
and are issuing fare credits.
• Cruise lines have policies to refund less and less of the
fare the closer the cancellation is to the departure. For
example, for cancellations 90 days before, the deposit is
lost, 60 days before 50% of the price is lost, and 30 days
or less before, the whole fare is lost. Cruise lines are
waiving these conditions and are giving full refunds up to
48 hours before and are issuing cruise fare credits.
• Tour Operators have cancellation policies like cruise
lines. Tour Operators are not giving refunds, but are
What about cancellation cover in your travel insurance
policy? Will it cover lost deposits and cancellation fees?
It depends on the policy exclusions.
There are not one, not two, but three policy exclusions each
of which apply to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. They
are: 1) the risk of infection is a known risk; 2) COVID-19
has been declared a pandemic by the World Health
Organisation; and 3) there is a Government directive warning
against overseas travel.
In short, travel insurance provides no cover at all for lost
deposits and cancellation fees.
The ACCC Final Report on its Digital platforms Inquiry
has systematically revealed the great power that Google and
Facebook have when it comes to advertising and marketing,
particularly for small travel businesses.
The Report explains why:
“Online advertising has helped businesses build a brand
and following through social media. In particular, small
businesses have benefited in advertising and reaching
“Customers already using Google Search for generalised
search queries would be inclined to also use Google Search
for specialised search queries, such as information on
travel services, including flights, tours and accommodation,
because users display customer inertia. The same cannot be
said of users of specialised travel services, so this source
of traffic is not available to suppliers of specialised
travel search services.”
“For these reasons, even when specialised search services
have considerable reach, such as travel and hotel booking
search services, Google’s general search service enjoys a
competitive advantage over them.”
While this power explains why small businesses might use
paid advertising on Google and Facebook, there are other
cost-effective ways to build a social media presence, such
Invest in a high quality, responsive and
Work with a qualified digital marketing agency to
ensure you are keeping up to date with the ever-changing
requirements of website design and navigation, SEO,
keywords, user experience, page load times etc.
Build your brand online by publishing regular,
fresh, relevant and low/no-cost content that is both
helpful and interesting for your customers such as
educational videos, informational blogs, buying guides
and cost calculators
The High Court of Australia has ruled that scarfs should
not be worn if you are hot air ballooning.
The ruling came out of a fatal accident on 13 July 2013,
when a passenger was boarding a hot air balloon at a
location near Alice Springs for a flight at sunrise.
Passengers had been advised to wear beanies, scarfs and
gloves, because it could be chilly at that time of day. Ms
Bernoth wore a long scarf, wrapped twice around her neck,
tied loosely at the front.
The fan to inflate the balloon had started, and three
passengers had boarded the basket. As Ms Bernoth approached
the basket, she passed by the inflation fan. The long
lightweight tassels on her scarf were sucked into the
inflation fan, causing her to be dragged towards the metal
guard around the fan. The scarf was pulled tightly around
her neck as it became entangled in the fan. She later died
from the injuries sustained.
The photo shows the actual balloon as it started to
inflate. Note how closely the fan is positioned to the
Why was the High Court involved? The issue the High Court
had to decide was whether WHS (Work Health and Safety) law
applied. It decided it did, exposing the balloon operator to
a fine of up to $1,500,000. This is in addition to its civil
liability to compensate Ms Bernoth's estate for her death.
The moral is - don't wear a scarf on a hot air balloon
because it puts the passenger at risk of injury or death and
the operator at risk of a large fine.
There’s a world of opportunity for you to organise safaris
in Africa, treks in Nepal, meditation and yoga retreats in
Bali and in India; and in Australia, tours of the outback
and National Parks, bicycle and motor bike tours on the east
Are you thinking about setting up as a tour operator or
starting a tour business in Australia?
Make sure of the seven legal essentials:
#1 Business Structure
#3 Business Insurance and Travel Insurance
#4 Passports and Visas
#5 Booking Forms and Terms and Conditions
#6 Consumer Law Compliance
#7 Business Name Protection
These are the seven legal essentials, as I explain in
10 minute video:
Four legal essentials for Tour Operators when organising
tours, as I explain in this 2 minute video:
#1 Get your product quality right for your clients
#2 Hire a good lawyer for your ground operator and
#3 Take care with supplier contracts
#4 Insurance – professional indemnity & travel insurance
It's frustrating to be waiting at an airport and watching
your flight being delayed on the Flight Directory. It's even
worse if it's late at night and the flight is cancelled
because it cannot take off before the curfew.
The airline will offer refreshments, meals and accommodation
for overnight delays. But what if you don’t want to take the
When it comes to giving a fare refund for flight delays and
cancellations, airlines have been very reluctant:
Jetstar policy was that its 'Economy Starter' fares
and 'Plus Bundle' fares were non-refundable unless the
passenger purchased a flight bundle at additional cost.
Qantas policy was that refunds were not available for
its 'Red e-deal' fares.
Tigerair policy was that a "refund admin fee" was
payable for a refund, and the refund was only available as a
fare credit valid for 6 months only.
Virgin Australia policy was that refunds were not
available for its 'Domestic Getaway' and International
Short-Haul fares, and the refund was only available as a
fare credit valid for 12 months only.
The consumer regulator, the ACCC, has used its threat of
legal action for breach of the consumer guarantee that
services must be supplied within a reasonable time to have
these four airlines agree to offer fare refunds to any
passenger who requested one over the past 2 years and in the
In addition, it proposes to fine Jetstar $1.95 million
because its policy to offer refunds only if a more expensive
fare was purchased was far worse than the refund policies of
the other airlines.
The result is by no means perfect. Often a passenger has to
pay more to another airline for a fare if the flight is
cancelled and they may lose their connections. These extra
costs are not compensated. Nor is there any fixed
compensation available as there is in Europe where up to
E600 is payable for a flight delay or cancellation (as an
alternative to a fare refund).
There are some travel professionals who still think that
they can book an international flight, and leave it to the
customer to look after the visa requirements. They do this
even though as travel professionals, they know that without
a valid visa the customer will be denied boarding on the
flight they have booked.
The words All-inclusive are a powerful marketing
tool which is used by many tour operators, accommodation
providers and cruise lines.
So what does a traveller think when they read this in a
brochure which is labelled All-Inclusive : WHAT'S
INCLUDED? Coach travel throughout ... Six nights dinner, bed
and continental breakfast at the Hotel ...
Is lunch included?
According to a ruling by the UK Advertising Standards
Authority, the traveller was entitled to expect that lunch
was included because that was the overall impression given
by the description.
The lesson is that to avoid giving a misleading
impression, if lunch is not included then it needs to be
specifically stated - Lunch is not included. If nothing is
mentioned about lunch then it is misleading to not include