Traveller Letters: 'Special Australian fare' leaves us still waiting on $13,000 refund

CANCEL CULTURE

We are still awaiting our refund from Lufthansa for $13,192 paid on September 12, 2019, for air travel in May and June that was cancelled. We would like to know how third party E-ticketing travel agencies can justify retaining airline refunds? From our experience, airlines usually promptly process refunds, which are retained by these travel agency ticketers for weeks on end. It must be a nice little earner for someone. And we had to use a travel agent, since these "special Australian market" fares are not available directly from the airline.

Noelene McNair, Church Point, NSW

Editor's note: Flight Centre Group's managing director James Kavanagh offers an explanation for the delays in refunds in this article.

WAIT. THERE'S COVER-MORE

Like many others, our 2020 travel plans were grounded due to COVID-19. As independent travellers, we were unsure of our status in receiving refunds. We were able to cancel our accommodations with no issue. After much hard work, our agent Stewart from Flight Centre had secured a full refund from Singapore Airlines and negotiated the return of the "Commonwealth Awards" points that we had also used as payment. Our good fortune didn't stop there. We had registered for the complimentary credit card travel insurance with Commonwealth Bank, paying a supplementary payment for my pre-existing health conditions. To our surprise, I received an email from Cover-More, the insurer for CBA, asking me to fill in paperwork so they could expedite an unprompted refund for the amount I had paid. I will definitely recommend Cover-More and I certainly won't hesitate to use the credit card travel insurance offered by the bank.

Sue Warnes, Suffolk Park, NSW

AGENTS OF MERCY

I agree with Anthony Gooden (Traveller Letters, September 5) about the benefits of a good travel agent. We had a family trip to Hawaii booked for March which was also cancelled and the wonderful Flight Centre at Erina, NSW, managed to get full refunds except for Cover-More who agreed on 75 per cent and just this week refunded the remaining 25 per cent. A good relationship with your travel agent relieves all the stress when things don't quite go to plan.

Carol Sale, Saratoga, NSW

COUGHING UP

While I understand that people would like to travel outside Australia as expressed by Sidra de Zoysa (Traveller Letters, September 12), if l was the Australian Government l would require not only a two week quarantine payment upfront, but also a legally-binding guarantee to pay any medical costs of screening and hospitalisation in Australia (and the costs for any contacts they pass it to) should the traveller acquire COVID-19 overseas and then return. Remember, Victoria's second wave started from returned residents.

Lois Clarke, Fairlight, NSW

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CLAIM GAME

Carolyn Madden (Traveller Letters, September 12) misses the point. How can you make a claim for travel insurance on a holiday if you were not allowed to go? The travel insurance companies have taken money for no risk. I purchased insurance last November but surprise, in small print it says they don't cover pandemics (someone had a looking glass).

Stacey Vickery, Ryde, NSW

BILLED ON ARRIVAL

To add to your correspondent's suggestions of staycations in NSW (Traveller Letters, September 12), may I suggest a night or two at Sydney's luxurious Taronga Wildlife Retreat? Right on our doorstep, and with killer views of Sydney Harbour, this new hotel brings the bush to jaded city dwellers. Most memorable to me was the platypus that swam to greet me on my arrival (and, no, it wasn't animatronic).

Randi Svensen, Wyong, NSW

Editor's note: For Traveller's verdict on the Taronga Wildlife Retreat, read our review here.

HUNTER GATHERERS

We usually organise our local travel ourselves and our - previously frequent - overseas trips through a travel agent. In recent years young Dom at Flight Centre George Street has been our go-to travel expert, arranging great deals and in 2020 full refunds for cancelled flights. So this month we asked him to suggest a week away not-too-far north from Sydney. He delivered the perfect staycation package: car hire, a little bit of luxury in Nelson Bay and rural charm in Pokolbin (complemented by recent articles by Traveller about Port Stephens and Hunter Valley wine country). It was like a holiday in the Greek Islands and the vineyards of France. We look forward to exploring more of the world - in NSW. Support your local travel agent and state tourist industry. Use them or lose them.

Marjory Ellsmore, Glebe, NSW

TANG DYNASTY

When I first went to China in 1978 (with Bob Hawke on the same train, only a carriage or two away) we had to cross the border from Hong Kong by walking on train rails and across a bridge above a muddy river from the Hong Kong side. Travelling by train to Canton (now Guangzhou) we then travelled on to Hangzhou to see West Lake and then onto Peking (now Beijing) where we visited the Forbidden City, Peking Opera, the Great Wall and to Chengdu to see giant Pandas. Travel between cities was by diesel or steam train or a flight on CAAC, the state airline, with inflight services consisting of cups of Tang and White Rabbit bon bons.

Michael Copping, Oatley, NSW

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