A grandmother and her family fought for months to get reimbursement for a Â£ 1,000 transatlantic flight canceled by Covid.
Maureen Sims, 82, from Abergavenny, initially bought a Â£ 1,082.34 round trip flight in January 2020 so her granddaughter Rena could visit her brother Lee in North Carolina, USA. However, the ensuing coronavirus pandemic anchored the July trip, when his family contacted the online booking agency BudgetAir.co.uk to ask them to get their money back.
But, after initially being asked to be patient while the company dealt with the issue, Maureen’s daughter Alison Platt said she hadn’t heard anything, adding that their Nationwide bank – including the credit card had been used for the reservation – then submitted his complaint to bad service.
As a result, by the time the bank’s error was discovered, the travel agency had claimed that nothing could be done because the 120-day limit to request a refund had expired.
âMom thought it would be nice to pay for Rena, who is 20, to travel to the United States to see her older brother, who lives there,â said Alison, who runs a community food bank in the city. city.
âObviously when Covid hit American Airlines started doing cancellations and we were first told to wait until after the flight date before trying to get our money back.
“It sounded good to us because at this point in the pandemic nobody really knew how long it would last or what its scope would be.”
However, although American Airlines later reimbursed BudgetAir for the cost of the canceled flights, the money was not returned to Maureen.
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âWe tried to contact BudgetAir on several occasions but came to nothing so we turned to Nationwide as the tickets had been booked with one of their credit cards,â Alison said, adding that the bank had replied that their complaint was being examined.
âIt continued, back and forth, until New Years Eve, when we finally got a phone call from Nationwide informing us that we had been referred to the wrong department all the time. They apologized, saying we had been misled and adding that we should have spoken to the people in the “Visa Disputes” section. “
Then, to make matters worse, when the family finally managed to get a refund through the bank, BudgetAir – whose parent company is Netherlands-based Travix – contested the claim because the 120-day deadline on claims. of refund was exhausted.
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âMy mom was really upset and said, ‘Don’t worry my love, I’m just going to have to lose the money – it’s just one of those things,â Alison said. “But I was furious because it wasn’t our fault that the time had passed. So, no, I wasn’t about to give up like that.”
Alison was so exasperated that she reached out to Monmouth MP David Davies, who wrote Nationwide and BudgetAir on behalf of the family and, almost a year later, the situation was finally sorted out.
“I can’t thank him enough for what he did. We even got Â£ 75 compensation on top of the Â£ 1082.34 we got back,” Alison said.
“However, what concerns me is that there could be a lot of other customers who are in the same boat as us and who will not be so lucky.”
A Nationwide spokesperson said: âThe pandemic has cast doubt on the travel plans of many people.
“When looking for a refund, the first port of call should always be their travel supplier who in most cases will offer a refund or allow them to book at a later date.” When this is not possible, people can raise a dispute regarding Visa claiming in an attempt to get their money back. Under the rules of the chargeback system, people have 120 days from the date the event was supposed to take place to make a claim.
“If a claim is not made within this time, it will unfortunately be refused. If someone has paid by credit card then it is possible to make a claim under section 75, but this often fails if payment is not made directly to the supplier.
âThe protection is also unlikely to apply when someone has used an intermediary to purchase flights from an airline on someone else’s behalf.
âThe pandemic has led to high volumes of calls to insurers. However, we apologize if it took longer than usual to respond to the member.
BudgetAir.co.uk has been contacted for comment.