Horror travel ordeal: Couple blindsided by booking blow
A Caloundra couple's $12,000 holiday to the Maldives has turned into a travel "horror show" with the booking company involved refusing to grant a refund.
Pip and Dave Slater, of Baringa, were due to fly out to the Maldives for eight days on Thursday after years of planning their dream getaway to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary.
But when COVID-19 shut down all international travel and Mr Slater being classed as high risk due to health problems, they were unable to go.
The Slaters had made their booking through Flight Centre at Birtinya in January and have since asked for a refund.
It was denied.
"Our trip was supposed to be something significant, something special because we couldn't afford a honeymoon," Mrs Slater said.
"It was an all-inclusive trip which we were really looking forward to.
"Now we are out of pocket."
According to Flight Centre, the Slaters' trip was made through a third party, Entire Travel Group, who declined numerous attempts to refund the holiday.
Mrs Slater and Flight Centre both made contact with the hotel in the Maldives they were supposedly staying at, The Pullman Hotel.
The hotel confirmed they had not received the money for the package.
The Sunshine Coast Daily initially made contact with Entire Travel Group who said they would respond to questions, however follow up requests went unanswered.
Flight Centre say their requests to Entire Travel Group to secure a refund have been "repeatedly declined".
"We understand that this is not the outcome that the Slaters want and we are extremely sorry they have been impacted this way," a Flight Centre spokeswoman said.
"However, Flight Centre acts as an agent for third party suppliers, in this case Entire Travel Group, who are responsible for delivering the holiday package.
"Customers are always bound by the terms and conditions of the supplier which is detailed in the invoice."
Entire Travel Group offered the Slaters a credit which is due to expire on December 31, 2022.
A spokesman for the company said in most cases, passengers were satisfied to receive credit rather than lose money.
Mrs Slater said the ordeal poked holes in the whole booking process.
"I knew (we were) using a supplier but what happened was that that supplier was using another supplier which I was not made aware of," Mrs Slater said.
"Had I of known that I would not have proceeded with the sale.
"I am currently going through knee rehabilitation, so the money could really be used right now."
Mrs Slater said her requests to contact the third party were also answered with "radio silence".
Adam Glezer is another disgruntled Flight Centre customer turned consumer advocate who is calling for a major shake-up to how customers using travel companies are protected.
"I think it's terrible, you hate to see people like them being taken advantage of," Mr Glezer said.
"For her refund to not be granted even though the hotel was never paid and also based on compassionate grounds is just wrong. Shocking really."
Mr Glezer said what happened to the Slaters was a classic example of the current lack of transparency in the travel industry.
"What she thought she was booking through, wasn't the case at all. She thought she was booking through Flight Centre but there were two other third parties involved as well," he said.
"In my opinion all of the terms and conditions for each party involved need to be clearly laid out to consumers so they know exactly what they are signing up for.
"As things stand a lot of customers are blindsided."
Mr Glezer has three Facebook groups which have gained more than 15,000 members, all of which are linked through their own horror stories.
One of the Facebook groups can be found at Travel Industry Issues - the need for change for Australians.
"I would encourage people in a similar situation to join for support and advice," he said.