A little finger trouble may well cost you dearly…

Copy of Copy of Copy of wendyknowler INLSA Wendy Knowler

Having a spot of finger trouble can be costly when it comes to making online purchases or payments.

It’s become the norm for consumers to make airline bookings online, but if you spell a name wrong or click on the wrong date or destination, you may find it’s not quite so simple to fix the problem.

Bibi Haajarah wrote to Consumer Alert two weeks ago to say that she’d gone on to SAA’s website to book a ticket for her mother, Amina Jogee, to fly from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg on April 16.

But instead of clicking on Port Elizabeth, she clicked on Pietermaritzburg, and only realised this once she’d confirmed and paid for the ticket – R1 300.

“I called them to cancel, but they said while they do allow cancellations, due to my flight class being the lowest, they are unable to refund me,” she said.

“I need to know if it’s possible for them to do this. The flight booked is for April 16, so they can’t claim I have given short notice. I don’t expect to get a 100 percent refund, but something would be better than nothing.”

I took up the case with SAA, and received the following response: “Our customer mistakenly selected a booking from Pietermaritzburg to Johannesburg, instead of Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg.

“In such an instance, SAA has a 12-hour rule where if our customer reports the error within 12 hours of making the booking, they are refunded in full, but are liable for the payment of a R285 admin fee.

“This rule is applicable, irrespective of any class booked. We apologised to our customer and will ensure she is fully reimbursed.”

The act allows consumers to cancel advance bookings and be refunded, but a “reasonable” cancellation fee may be charged. The low-cost airlines are contesting this, saying their business model was based on a “no refunds” policy – as are traditional airlines with respect to their lowest-priced fares.

They say the low-cost aviation business model worldwide does not allow for refundable ticket sales or ticket flexibility, as this would make low-cost travel unsustainable.

I thought I’d find out whether other local airlines have similar procedures.

Here’s how they responded:

Mango:

Passengers are able to correct bookings via our call centre or website, but we do charge an administration fee of R170 for processing this and difference between the two fares, if higher, would be chargeable.

British Airways:

British Airways does provide latitude for customers to make changes to online bookings within 24 hours of making the booking with no penalties. This applies only to bookings made online at www.ba.com

1Time:

Reservation changes may be made up to two hours before departure of the booked flight, on our website, through our call centre, or at any of our airport offices. A R120 change of reservation fee, plus the difference in fare if applicable, will be charged per passenger per flight.


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