Travel – to cancel or not to cancel?

If you’re a Western Australian who loves to travel, then odds are high you’ve had a trip cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Hopefully your refund or remedy was sorted quickly, but if not, you’re certainly not alone. Complaints to Consumer Protection were five times higher in the period from March 1 2020 until now, compared with the same period last year.

Of the 625 travel-related complaints received, more than half were from consumers seeking refunds that were either denied or were offered credit notes instead.

With travel emerging as one of the biggest consumer issues to arise from the pandemic, regulators across Australia have been working on creating guidance for how the travel industry should handle such cancellations.

Those guidelines have now been released and suggest that in circumstances where a travel service has not yet been cancelled – but travel restrictions mean it may be cancelled in the future – travel operators should advise on the remedies available depending on who cancels the booking.

A consumer cancelling too early could be viewed as a change of mind, so it’s very important to check the terms and conditions before deciding whether to cancel yourself or wait until there is greater certainty.

Your best option could be to wait until the travel provider makes a decision, as this may provide a broader range of options.

It is always worthwhile contacting your travel provider to find out what options you have for deferring your trip to a later date. In particular, check what flexibility may exist around using international travel credits for a domestic travel booking.

When it comes to booking future travel, the international travel bans and interstate border restrictions mean this can be a risky prospect.

A safer option currently is intra-state travel, however we would advise booking something within WA as close to the date of travel as possible, given the pandemic continues to present ongoing and evolving challenges.

The guidance can be viewed here:

www.accc.gov.au/business/covid-19-coronavirus-information-for-business#information-for-the-travel-industry

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