Maree Curtis and her partner had booked their holiday of a lifetime to celebrate retirement – flights with Air Canada; a rail trip on the Rocky Mountaineer and an Alaskan cruise aboard the Celebrity Solstice.
Then along came COVID-19, and like thousands of others, the couple saw their $20,000 dream evaporate before their eyes.
But what has really made Ms Curtis angry is the attitude of her online agent. Webjet has refused refunds, insisting they take credit notes – even though the cruise line has said it will pay them back.
Veteran cruiser Ms Curtis, who was due to depart to one of Australia’s favourite cruising destinations in May 2020, said she has repeatedly requested refunds from Webjet since her holiday was cancelled last year.
“My partner and I paid the deposit for our cruise in September 2019 and this holiday was supposed to be a celebration for my retirement. I love cruising and I was so looking forward to the holiday as we have never been aboard a Celebrity Cruises ship before,” she said.
“But when news of the pandemic started circulating at the beginning of 2020, we were asked by Webjet to pay the remaining amount of our trip in February which we thought was odd. The entire trip was cancelled and immediately, we had asked Webjet for a refund.”
Ms Curtis said she had been chasing a refund from Webjet for months.
“We were issued a credit note in April, which we didn’t ask for. We then responded asking again, for a refund. Finally, we got completely sick of waiting for a proper response from Webjet and we started to contact the third party-suppliers for our refunds,” she said.
“We were told by Air Canada that were unable to receive a refund, which we accepted, and we are still currently in talks with Rocky Mountaineer. And finally, we managed to have an honest conversation with Celebrity Cruises.”
Celebrity Cruises told Ms Curtis the line had given travel agents until 31 December 2020 to submit requests for refunds – but what they then told the couple shocked them.
“Celebrity, who have been so helpful to us, told us that Webjet had only requested a credit voucher before the 31 December deadline and not a refund. We find this completely unacceptable the lack of transparency,” she said.
Now, she is faced with an incredible Catch 22: “Celebrity has said that they will issue us a refund for the cruise element, but they are only able to refund the money to Webjet. And we are sceptical of whether we’ll see any of that money.”
When Cruise Passenger approached Webjet, they said they did not want to be quoted and refused to say if they would give Ms Curtis her money back, even if Celebrity returned it.
Consumer advocate Adam Glezer, leader of the Facebook advocacy group Travel Industry Issues – The Need For Change for Australians, said this is one of the many Webjet cases he’s had to work through.
“One of the biggest issues of Maree’s case is the fact that Webjet Exclusives hasn’t gone out and actively sought refunds for the customers after they’ve requested it. I also find it concerning that the customer has had to speak directly to the supplier to find out what is going on.”
“Maree booked through WebJet Exclusives and they should have been doing everything in their power to obtain her refund.”