Australian couple’s $59K travel nightmare from cruise company


The couple said their money had been held for almost four years by the cruise company. Photo / news.com.au

An Aussie couple who booked their dream holiday in 2019 have battled with the company to have their AU$52,000 refunded after the trip was canceled twice due to Covid.

Jill, 68 and Trevour Willcox, 69, of the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, had previously embarked on what they described to be a “wonderful” cruise experience with the hopes of mimicking their time in what would be their “last hoorah”.

For their final overseas trip, the self-funded retirees forked out AU$52,000 (NZ$59,000) on a Scenic cruise that would see them go to France and Switzerland for 26 days.

“We have been overseas a few times and thought this will be it. We wanted to get it out of our system and at the time Scenic were running a double river cruise,” Mrs Willcox told news.com.au.

The pair booked the epic cruise for May 2, 2020, through a travel agent, however, due to the pandemic it got cancelled.

“We accepted we weren’t going and went to our travel agent to find out what our options were. At no time was a refund offered, only future travel credits. If it had been offered we would have taken it,” the 68- year old explained.

The pair decided to rebook for May 2021 using their credit voucher, but again, as a result of Covid-19 and ongoing pandemic restrictions, it got cancelled.

With overseas travel still problematic and no future desire to travel anymore, the pair decided they wanted their money back.

However, they claim the luxury cruise and tour company made the process difficult.

“Had we been leaving in April a refund would have been possible, but as of May 1 2020 no refunds were offered,” Mrs Willcox said.

“As self-funded retirees it’s unfair that Scenic have held our money for so long — approximately $52,000. We have been told we cannot apply for a refund until June 2024.”

At the time of speaking with news.com.au, the pair claim to have tried contacting Scenic to no avail with the company allegedly not picking up their calls.

“We haven’t been able to get any information,” Mr Willcox added.

“At no stage did we think we weren’t getting our money back. I was convinced we would get it back. Initially, it was the end of this year and now it’s end of 2024.”

Mr Willcox described the situation as “frustrating” saying the company has “basically had our money for almost four years”.

The 69-year-old said while they are “not on the bone of our backsides”, they’re also not “flushed with funds”.

“We can put that money into a new caravan or a new car,” he said.

Meanwhile, the pair said the travel agent who booked the cruise has since been forced to close shop due to the impacts of the pandemic.

“She is only running for certain customers on the weekend — and we have been one of these — she has been very helpful, but our case is on the backburner.”

The couple have pointed their finger towards Scenic, telling news.com.au they were shocked the company is making them wait another two years before they can even apply for a refund.

Cancellation credits cause headaches for Aussies

Adam Glezer, from Consumer Champion, who has been advocating for the couple, said unfortunately companies in Australia are allowed to give credits instead of refunds for cancellations, which in turn causes a world of hurt for everyday Aussies.

“I am dealing with situations like this all the time,” Glezer told news.com.au.

“There’s a lot of Australians that have come to me because they have paid for a service that has not been provided and they have not been offered a refund in return.

“It is not fair at all for companies to not be offering customers a refund for a service they have not provided.”

Glezer said despite Scenic having no choice but to cancel due to Covid, “it’s not their money”.

“People’s situations change. You may be going to a wedding, a family get together or a funeral and may not need to go three years down the track. There’s so many reasons,” he said.

“In situations such as these, giving customers credit should be an option, but there should also be the option of a full refund in a timely manner.”

Glezer said if the couple had booked the cruise in the UK, under the package travel regulations and also according to Scenic UK’s terms and conditions, they would have been entitled to a full refund within 14 days — on the basis the company cancels the booking.

“But Jill and her husband have been waiting almost four years for a substantial amount of money,” Mr Glezer added.

“It really is time for the government to step up and start protecting Australians.”

Glezer said he would like to see Australians have protection when they book travel.

“If they have a canceled tour, they should be entitled to a full refund within a short period of time.”

He said the same goes for canceled flights.

“Unfortunately there are a large number of travel companies in Australia that take advantage of the fact that our protections are so weak and this has really been exposed as a result of Covid.”

After contacting Scenic for comment, news.com.au understands the company will now issue the couple a full refund within 24 hours, rather than them having to wait until June 2024 to apply for the AU$52k.

Glezer said while it is a great outcome for the couple, “what about all the other Aussies who continue to have had their money held by the company as a result of Covid”.

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