Couple fight for refund on travel deals website

John Bobby and Jennifer Heyward booked a vacation to China with TripADeal in 2019, but with declining health and closed borders due to Covid-19, the aging couple can no longer go.  TripADeal, through whom they booked, says they can only give credit.

MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFF

John Bobby and Jennifer Heyward booked a vacation to China with TripADeal in 2019, but with declining health and closed borders due to Covid-19, the aging couple can no longer go. TripADeal, through whom they booked, says they can only give credit.

A couple who booked a trip to China before Covid-19 hit have hit a wall in getting a refund for their holiday booked through a travel deals website.

When John Bobby booked a vacation to China with his partner Jennifer Heyward, he was “over the moon”.

This was a 14-day guided tour through Tripadeal that included a trip on the Yangtze, a visit to the Great Wall of China, a visit to the Terracotta Warriors, and a bullet train ride.

They paid $4698.96 to Tripadeal in September 2019 for their adventure which was to start on April 27, 2020 but as the pandemic took hold and borders closed the trip was put on hold.

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Bobby said Tripadeal told him the company would hold back his money for another trip when things cleared up.

“And not everything has been cleared up.”

The couple contacted Tripadeal several times but Bobby said ‘they don’t want to know about you’ and the only solution offered was to go through their insurance and get credit from the online travel agent.

Bobby said he got his full payment back from AA Insurance and hoped the same from Tripadeal, on “principle”.

“It’s not their fault Covid happened, it’s not our fault Covid happened, we paid them in good faith.”

Bobby said he recently had a medical condition and was admitted to hospital with heart issues, which added to the challenge of using their credit.

John Bobby and Jennifer Heyward had been looking forward to seeing some of China's famous sights, but the pandemic and poor health put the vacation to a halt.

GLOBUS TOURS/Stuff-co-nz

John Bobby and Jennifer Heyward had been looking forward to seeing some of China’s famous sights, but the pandemic and poor health put the vacation to a halt.

Australia-based Tripadeal offers tour deals, packages and cruises, which appealed to Bobby and Heyward.

Having traveled to New Zealand and Australia, Bobby said the affordable tour suited them well at their age.

After countless phone calls with Tripadeal and getting no resolution, Bobby enlisted Nelson’s Labor MP Rachel Boyack to help.

Boyack said that after providing the company with documents “every step of the way,” it “raised the bar,” taking days to respond.

Tripadeal chief executive Richard Johnston said Things because the couple’s trip had been booked so close to the world’s shutdown, suppliers, including airlines and hotels, had already been paid.

“Because the trips were so cheap, there were clearly no low refunds as the money was committed up front.”

He said the couple may be able to receive reimbursement as part of a financial hardship claim if they provide a medical certificate.

“Normally we would need written proof from a specialist, but due to the confusion surrounding this matter I would be happy to receive a detailed letter from their GP. Once this is provided I will submit to again ask them to the hardship team and will request a refund on their behalf.

The company has paid “tens of millions of dollars in refunds” to Australians and New Zealanders since the pandemic hit, he said. Refunds depended on arrangements with the travel provider at the other end, including flights, hotels and transfers.

“Our best effort refund says we get as much money back as possible and pass it on to the customer, and if there are any gaps, we will pass it on as a credit.”

He said the cost recovery on something like this was unprecedented and was done on a case-by-case basis.

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