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  • FIRST POST
    • AmberWH
    • By AmberWH 14th May 19, 7:07 AM
    • 20Posts
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    AmberWH
    0 WOW
    South African Airways rip-off
    • #1
    • 14th May 19, 7:07 AM
    0 WOW
    South African Airways rip-off 14th May 19 at 7:07 AM
    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.
Page 1
    • Caz3121
    • By Caz3121 14th May 19, 7:14 AM
    • 12,062 Posts
    • 7,874 Thanks
    Caz3121
    • #2
    • 14th May 19, 7:14 AM
    • #2
    • 14th May 19, 7:14 AM
    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
    • Pollycat
    • By Pollycat 14th May 19, 7:21 AM
    • 22,617 Posts
    • 61,192 Thanks
    Pollycat
    • #3
    • 14th May 19, 7:21 AM
    • #3
    • 14th May 19, 7:21 AM
    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.
    • AmberWH
    • By AmberWH 14th May 19, 8:19 AM
    • 20 Posts
    • 0 Thanks
    AmberWH
    • #4
    • 14th May 19, 8:19 AM
    • #4
    • 14th May 19, 8:19 AM
    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.
    Last edited by AmberWH; 14-05-2019 at 8:23 AM. Reason: sequence didn't make sense when I looked at it
    • comeandgo
    • By comeandgo 14th May 19, 8:30 AM
    • 2,591 Posts
    • 3,515 Thanks
    comeandgo
    • #5
    • 14th May 19, 8:30 AM
    • #5
    • 14th May 19, 8:30 AM
    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.
    • Pollycat
    • By Pollycat 14th May 19, 8:47 AM
    • 22,617 Posts
    • 61,192 Thanks
    Pollycat
    • #6
    • 14th May 19, 8:47 AM
    • #6
    • 14th May 19, 8:47 AM
    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.
    Originally posted by AmberWH
    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.
    • malkie76
    • By malkie76 14th May 19, 9:45 AM
    • 5,681 Posts
    • 6,705 Thanks
    malkie76
    • #7
    • 14th May 19, 9:45 AM
    • #7
    • 14th May 19, 9:45 AM
    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.
    Originally posted by Pollycat
    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
    • Pollycat
    • By Pollycat 14th May 19, 10:16 AM
    • 22,617 Posts
    • 61,192 Thanks
    Pollycat
    • #8
    • 14th May 19, 10:16 AM
    • #8
    • 14th May 19, 10:16 AM
    It sounds like they didnít. 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 donít think youíve got any come back here.

    I agree with others here - this is why not to use agents.
    Originally posted by malkie76
    I was just going by what the OP said:
    .
    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.
    Originally posted by AmberWH
    As I said, I was surprised.
    • Voyager2002
    • By Voyager2002 14th May 19, 11:38 AM
    • 13,081 Posts
    • 8,990 Thanks
    Voyager2002
    • #9
    • 14th May 19, 11:38 AM
    • #9
    • 14th May 19, 11:38 AM
    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.
    • malkie76
    • By malkie76 14th May 19, 12:47 PM
    • 5,681 Posts
    • 6,705 Thanks
    malkie76
    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
    • Heliflyguy
    • By Heliflyguy 14th May 19, 12:50 PM
    • 883 Posts
    • 435 Thanks
    Heliflyguy
    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.
    • Voyager2002
    • By Voyager2002 14th May 19, 9:10 PM
    • 13,081 Posts
    • 8,990 Thanks
    Voyager2002
    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
    Originally posted by malkie76

    I have in the (distant) past often bought flexible tickets from agents but made date changes directly with the airline. Doing so was never any kind of issue.
    • AmberWH
    • By AmberWH 14th May 19, 9:19 PM
    • 20 Posts
    • 0 Thanks
    AmberWH
    Same happened to me when my mum passed away last October. Again I dealt with SAA. And not the agent. SAA gave me a return ticket for a different date without any extra cost - I only had to supply the death certificate.
    It says in the agent's Ts&Cs that you must deal with the "suppliers" if you have issues when you are abroad, not the agent, so there is some confusion about this. I only wish I knew how to resolve it, not go over what I should or should not have done.
    • Voyager2002
    • By Voyager2002 15th May 19, 12:01 PM
    • 13,081 Posts
    • 8,990 Thanks
    Voyager2002
    Same happened to me when my mum passed away last October. Again I dealt with SAA. And not the agent. SAA gave me a return ticket for a different date without any extra cost - I only had to supply the death certificate.
    It says in the agent's Ts&Cs that you must deal with the "suppliers" if you have issues when you are abroad, not the agent, so there is some confusion about this. I only wish I knew how to resolve it, not go over what I should or should not have done.
    Originally posted by AmberWH

    To me, that confirms that there was something odd about the ticket you bought for the current trip. I repeat my previous suggestion: put together whatever evidence you have about the the ticket that you were actually sold and what the agent promised to provide, and if you were cheated then the credit card will help.

    My guess is that the agent was GotoGate: correct?
    • Heliflyguy
    • By Heliflyguy 15th May 19, 3:04 PM
    • 883 Posts
    • 435 Thanks
    Heliflyguy
    Many fare rules state that change fees are waived in the event of a death of the passenger or a family member and this is the case for SAA net fares.
    They are not waived for illnesses or surgery.
    There is nothing unusual about the OP's ticket.
    • Voyager2002
    • By Voyager2002 15th May 19, 3:36 PM
    • 13,081 Posts
    • 8,990 Thanks
    Voyager2002
    Many fare rules state that change fees are waived in the event of a death of the passenger or a family member and this is the case for SAA net fares.
    They are not waived for illnesses or surgery.
    There is nothing unusual about the OP's ticket.
    Originally posted by Heliflyguy

    What was unusual was that the staff at the airport could not see amount that had been paid for the ticket, and were unable to process it once they had begun the attempt. In any event, it was clearly not the flexible ticket for which the OP believed that she had paid.
    • Heliflyguy
    • By Heliflyguy 15th May 19, 4:42 PM
    • 883 Posts
    • 435 Thanks
    Heliflyguy
    The staff at the airport didn't know what they were doing then.
    IT tickets as well as BT and ITX do not have the fare printed on the e-ticket or on the ticket displayed in the booking.

    You can see the fare paid in the filed fare in the booking.
    If the filed fare is missing then you have to look at the fare history.

    The reason the fare is replaced with IT etc is so the agency can mark up the NET fare and the customer can not see the actual net fare paid.
    • AmberWH
    • By AmberWH 16th May 19, 6:44 AM
    • 20 Posts
    • 0 Thanks
    AmberWH
    It's interesting that the IT status hides the actual amount I paid. I would hazzard a guess that it hides it not from me (I didn't see the "IT" until SAA printed off a section from their computer for me and didn't know what it meant) but from SAA. The regular staff at Cape Town airport (not the call centre) were annoyed that the Travel Agents "undercut" their (SAA's) fares.

    I found it interesting that a major topic of conversation amongst SAfricans is which airlines to fly with. They buy their tickets direct from the airlines and compare BA/SAA/KLM/Emerites/etc along the lines of seat comfort, quality of the meals, baggage allowance, and even service from the inflight staff. It astounded me that they don't use the price comparison sites but contact the airlines direct.

    No the agent I used was not the one suggested by Voyager.
    • Heliflyguy
    • By Heliflyguy 16th May 19, 10:41 AM
    • 883 Posts
    • 435 Thanks
    Heliflyguy
    If the SAA staff were annoyed then they truly are clueless.

    Airlines give Net fares to agency's all the time and depending on the relationship with each other and the volume of sales will dictate the net discount. Generally the mark up will be to the general published fare but the flexibility is often better with the Net fare.
    Net fare rules do require the agency deals with any changes etc.
    You and the agency cannot pay for a net fare with a credit card, if you paid by cc then the merchant will be the agency so they took the hit on the cc fees. The airline then bills the agency.

    You may find therefore any cc protection is not available but I'm not 100 pcnt sure.
    Sorry to be blunt but I don't think you have any way to get the cost of the extra tickets back.

    You may be able to get something for the original unused flights but that depends on the no show/ refund rules. The SA tax is approx 25.70 so may not be worth reclaiming depending on the agency fees.
    • Voyager2002
    • By Voyager2002 16th May 19, 12:07 PM
    • 13,081 Posts
    • 8,990 Thanks
    Voyager2002
    You and the agency cannot pay for a net fare with a credit card, if you paid by cc then the merchant will be the agency so they took the hit on the cc fees. The airline then bills the agency.

    You may find therefore any cc protection is not available but I'm not 100 pcnt sure.
    Sorry to be blunt but I don't think you have any way to get the cost of the extra tickets back.
    Originally posted by Heliflyguy

    Thank you for the informative details (snipped). However, it does seem clear that the OP had a contract with the travel agent and paid by card. Should it turn out that the ticket supplied was not as described (that is, was not flexible but had been sold as such) then the credit card would provide redress against the agency.
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