Traveller Letters: Don't assume DFAT will help when you're stranded overseas

DFAT CHANCE

In regards to your recent article, Repatriation for Australians during coronavirus: How DFAT got 22,000 Aussies home, I was stranded overseas in London during the early stages of the pandemic, desperately trying to get home. Contact with Australian consulates and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) was undertaken. They stated "you should catch a commercial flight as soon as possible". There were limited or no commercial flights available with three different flights were booked then cancelled by airlines as hubs closed. Other comparable countries were actively repatriating their citizens during this same timeframe. The bottom line is don't assume your government is going to help you.

Vicky Siler, Sunbury, VIC

HIT THE ROAD

Flexibility is a trait that is important to all aspects of life including employment, relationships and travel. So while we now can't, or maybe will choose not to travel internationally into the future due to a lack of effective COVID-19 vaccine or treatment, I look forward to seeing more of our own glorious country in the way I enjoy the most. In fact, I feel a road trip approaching.

Vicki Copping, Oatley, NSW

LOCAL HEROES

We always use a local travel agent for our flight and accommodation bookings. We were in Asia during SARS. Our agent phoned us in our hotel in Cambodia to give us new flight and accommodation details. All at no cost to us. We are now awaiting news of our planned flight to the UK in August. Our agent will work it out and hopefully we will get a credit for 2021. It certainly pays to use an accredited agent.

Robyn Lewis, via Facebook

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FLOATS MY BOAT

The Ruby Princess scandal has created an unfortunate image of the cruising industry. To New Zealand, as if by sea? I did two recent cruises to New Zealand with Royal Caribbean International (RCI) aboard Explorer and Radiance. It was my first visit to New Zealand and hygiene practices were well-observed. Compare and contrast RCI with other cruise lines, for their itinerary, price structure and type of accommodation you seek. Any expenditure (whether factored in or discretionary) needs to be acknowledged. Track your recurring bill as you will be deemed a daily rate on your credit card. The cruises were enjoyable and affordable.

Mike Fogarty, Weston, ACT

MATCH ABANDONED

My son was supposed to travel to Europe with friends last year but was in a car accident two weeks before which stopped him from travelling. This year he won tickets, for himself and a friend, in the Wimbledon ballot (but he still had to pay for the tickets) and, being a good tennis player himself, was so happy to be allocated seats at the men's quarter finals. I was so proud of him - having just finished uni - he organised his flights and accommodation.

Silly me advised him to pay for the flights before the prices went up. Fortunately, Wimbledon has kindly offered either a refund or the same tickets for next year, Qatar Airways offered a full refund for flights and accommodation through booking.com has been refunded. However, Flight Centre kept $600 from the two refunded tickets from Qatar Airways.

Petina Lee, Marsfield , NSW

OBB WHAT A FEELING

Our experience with Austrian rail (OBB) couldn't have been any different to J Geddes's experience with German Rail (Traveller letters, May 23). Recognising that our refund paperwork hadn't come through their system correctly, we were contacted directly by OBB to ask how they could help.

Several emails later with the one wonderful contact, Roman, we were offered a credit to the full value of what we paid, plus 10 per cent valid for 10 years - and this despite the fact our tickets were originally bought as non-refundable.

When I asked if we could instead get a refund to our credit card, the response was an immediate yes; that although the voucher was faster and more economical for OBB, a full refund was also possible. We had the money back on our credit card in three days.

The patience, perseverance and service from OBB was exceptional, and a stark contrast to that of our airline and travel insurer. You certainly learn who you will - and won't - use again in the future.

Sharon Arkell, Malvern, VIC

WARMING TO QUEENSLAND

My husband and I have the philosophy "travel while we can." Since 2009, we have enjoyed nine Christmas and New Year European holidays. We now watch bittersweet videos of our last trip to Bavaria, Austria and Switzerland, the magical Christmas markets in Munich and Regensburg, the crowded ski slopes and bars, the raucous New Years Eve party in St Anton.

This year, we were planning to go in search of the Northern Lights, but "plan B" is sunny Queensland, once it opens its borders to southerners, for a rare warm festive season. Oh well, there are far worse places.

Rhoda Silber, Manly NSW

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