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South African Airways rip-off

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Flights, Currency & Car Hire
20 replies 1.5K views
AmberWHAmberWH Forumite
20 posts
edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Flights, Currency & Car Hire
I delayed my return and was wrongfully charged for my return ticket to the UK.
Who can I turn to for a refund?
The credit card I paid with? The airline? My travel insurance company? The travel agent? One of the organisations that protect us - ABTA/IATA/CAA/other? I would be most grateful for some expert help.

The circumstances:
1. I found the cheapest flight to SA on Travelsupermarket.com and Kayak. I was told by the travel agent the flight I picked was not changeable. I therefore paid quite a bit extra just in case I had to change my dates. I paid by credit card for 2 return flights for me and my husband.
2. I was due to return to the UK on 7th April. I needed a minor op on my back in Cape Town (a pre-existing condition so not covered by insurance) so I phoned SAA in Johannesburg on 2nd April to find out if I could change my return date. They informed me the only way I could have an extra £150 for each ticket waivered was if I had had a bereavement or needed hospitalisation. I should send a letter from a specialist surgeon, which I did.
3. I received no response to my email so I called again the next day. Calling SAA is far from simple - taking hours to get through, etc. They told me they could not reply to emails as they could only send "automated emails". They also could not find my email so they asked me to resend it, which I did, and to phone back in an hour to see if they had received it, which I did, and they had. They informed me the extra charge would be waivered and I should call back when I had had my minor op. My tickets would be placed in a "holding" category.
4. I called back last Tuesday 7th May. I spent the entire four days, Tues-Fri, on the phone to SAA - where phone charges are astronomical. They provisionally booked us for Saturday. Meanwhile they could not confirm the tickets because they didn't know what I had paid originally because the Travel Agent in London had booked the tickets with the letters "IT" next to them, hiding what they had charged me. I was told to phone the Travel Agent in London and tell them to phone SAA.
5. I phoned the Travel Agent - again at an almighty cost. They told me - rubbish, the IT booking would have included a hotel, which mine didn't. They told me the classes I had been booked under for each leg of the journey. They also told me I was showing up as a no-show for the return flight on 7th April. They refused to phone up SAA on my behalf.
6. I phoned SAA back. They insisted it was an IT booking. Meanwhile they told me I had to download an 8 page form from their website and get it filled in by the surgeon to show I was "fit to travel" on that day. This required many trips to internet cafes, printers, the doctor's, the hospital where he was operating, the printers, the internet cafe, until it was sent and finally received to be assessed by the SAA medical team.
7. On Friday - day before the return flight - it was finally confirmed to me I was travelling the next day and I should enjoy my flight. Wheelchairs would be organised to get me from the luggage drop off to the gates/exit at all three airports - they were not. I had to reorganise them at each place.
8. I got to Cape Town airport on Saturday only to find our flights were NOT confirmed. The medical had been approved, but only for that day. I was kept standing for an hour and missed my flight. I was handed a computer printout which states "IT". It was explained that without knowing what I was charged in London for my ticket and the taxes, they could not waiver an unknown amount.
9. To cut a long story short, I had to pay up a full fare or I could not return to the UK. I knew the alternative was for us to spend another entire week in Cape Town on the phone to the SAA call centre and get nowhere. So I paid £1211.23 + the credit card non-Sterling transaction fee of £33.31, to SAA, to leave the country.

How do I seek a refund?

Many thanks in advance for any pointers. I have no idea where to go from here.
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Replies

  • Caz3121Caz3121 Forumite
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    your agreement was with your chosen agent, Did you contact them (not the airline) before the departure date of the original flight? - they would be the ones to make the change to the ticket as they had the full details of payment
  • PollycatPollycat Forumite
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    It seems to me that you made things more difficult by not booking the flights direct with South African Airways.


    Maybe you should rethink who actually ripped you off.
  • edited 14 May 2019 at 9:23AM
    AmberWHAmberWH Forumite
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    edited 14 May 2019 at 9:23AM
    Caz3121:
    "your agreement was with your chosen agent, Did you contact them (not the airline) before the departure date of the original flight? - they would be the ones to make the change to the ticket as they had the full details of payment"
    Maybe - but the Travel Agent was totally unhelpful when I called from SA after the op. I was in a tight corner and they would simply not assist. I also tried emailing SAA customer services who didn't even bother to respond.
    Also the SAA staff at the airport told me I should not have dealt with the SAA head office in Johannesburg but come to them in the first place - they would have sorted it out. However none of this is clear to the traveller. Only to the experts perhaps, whom I am appealing to.
  • comeandgocomeandgo Forumite
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    I know it's not going to help you in this instance, but I honestly don't think you will be able to get your money back from any of the firms involved, and never book flights through a booking agency. You loose all the negotiating, all the first hand information, it's never worth it.
  • PollycatPollycat Forumite
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    AmberWH wrote: »
    Caz3121:
    "your agreement was with your chosen agent, Did you contact them (not the airline) before the departure date of the original flight? - they would be the ones to make the change to the ticket as they had the full details of payment"
    Maybe - but the Travel Agent was totally unhelpful when I called from SA after the op. I was in a tight corner and they would simply not assist. I also tried emailing SAA customer services who didn't even bother to respond.
    Also the SAA staff at the airport told me I should not have dealt with the SAA head office in Johannesburg but come to them in the first place - they would have sorted it out. However none of this is clear to the traveller. Only to the experts perhaps, whom I am appealing to.
    Your contract was with the agent who you booked your tickets through.
    I'm surprised that SAA at the airport were willing to deal with you.
  • malkie76malkie76 Forumite
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    Pollycat wrote: »
    Your contract was with the agent who you booked your tickets through.
    I'm surprised that SAA at the airport were willing to deal with you.

    It sounds like they didn’t. The OP bought a fresh one way ticket home at over a grand.

    Contract is with the agent - you should have stuck with them from the start as the airline cannot deal directly with you. Given you chose to buy another ticket I don’t think you’ve got any come back here.

    I agree with others here - this is why not to use agents.
    Legal team on standby
  • PollycatPollycat Forumite
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    malkie76 wrote: »
    It sounds like they didn’t. The OP bought a fresh one way ticket home at over a grand.

    Contract is with the agent - you should have stuck with them from the start as the airline cannot deal directly with you. Given you chose to buy another ticket I don’t think you’ve got any come back here.

    I agree with others here - this is why not to use agents.
    I was just going by what the OP said:
    AmberWH wrote: »
    .
    Also the SAA staff at the airport told me I should not have dealt with the SAA head office in Johannesburg but come to them in the first place - they would have sorted it out.
    As I said, I was surprised.
  • Voyager2002Voyager2002 Forumite
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    It would help if you named the agent...


    Anyway, it seems clear that you paid the agent extra for a flexible ticket, and when you needed to make a change your ticket turned out not to be flexible. So that is where the rip-off is.

    The main fault with the airline seems to be lack of customer service staff. When you initially discussed your operation with them the agent did not check what sort of ticket you had, instead letting you know about a concession they make for passengers in medical need. Had you been sold a genuinely flexible ticket this would have been irrelevant to you. Anyway, the call centre staff treated you as someone with an inflexible ticket (still not checking what sort of ticket you had) and so it was only at the last moment that they found that you had an unusual ticket and they were unable even to process their concession for people with medical reasons to change date of travel.

    I suggest that you do the following:
    print off full details of your ticket and its T & Cs, and if possible verify that it was a TI ticket (something that is supposed to be sold only as part of a package including a hotel. And print off full details of what the agency told you that you were buying.

    Raise a dispute with your credit card provider: your complaint is against the agent rather than the airline, since you were charged for a flexible ticket and sold a ticket that was anything but that.
  • malkie76malkie76 Forumite
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    I think the issue is that they may have bought a flexible ticket from the agent, but went directly to the airline to make a change, hence confusing things.

    However if it was after the outbound flight was completed it might have been appropriate to go to the airline.

    Either way the contract is with the agent
    Legal team on standby
  • HeliflyguyHeliflyguy Forumite
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    IT tickets are just net fares, ITX fares should include hotels etc.
    OP did have a flexible ticket but thought they could avoid the £150 cost to change by getting a letter from the hospital then getting into a conveluted exchange.
    OP should have spoken to the agency that booked first not that they appear to be much good though.

    There is nothing wrong necessarily with using an agency, sometimes fares can be cheaper the problem is finding a good one.
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