Those who hold Velvet Sky tickets for flights in the coming weeks and months find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
The Durban-based airline will not refund them, as it is promising to resume flights from today, but given that the airline has been promising this since March 5, and there are now reports of staff being issued temporary layoff notices, people are naturally worried that their tickets will be worthless.
Those who had bought tickets for flights scheduled from the last week of February, when Velvet Sky stopped flying, have been told to fill out refund forms, but the airline does not appear to have issued any refunds yet, saying their bank needs 14 to 21 days to process them.
Speaking to Consumer Alert last week, Velvet Sky spokesman Jerome Govender said the airline had “every intention” of refunding affected passengers, but conceded that it was having “a bit of a complication” accessing funds at the moment.
And because the airline is technically still open for business, and, in most cases, within its stipulated time frame for issuing refunds on cancelled flights, those owed refunds cannot yet apply to their banks for charge-back.
Charge-back is a consumer protection offered by banks and their credit card company partners which sees those who’ve paid for goods or services with their credit cards being refunded if they don’t get what they paid for, and they haven’t been refunded.
Those who hold Velvet Sky tickets for peak periods are particularly compromised, as seats on other airlines will be in short supply, and, of course, relatively expensive.
This is the predicament which five members of Cape Town girl band Junkyard Lipstick now find themselves in.
They’ve been booked to perform at the Splashy Fen music festival in Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal, which takes place over the Easter weekend.
In mid-February, they paid R850 each to fly from Cape Town to Durban, booking their return flights on another budget airline at a cost of R5 440 for the five of them.
Now they’re growing increasingly doubtful that Velvet Sky is going to honour their tickets, despite its call centre reassurances, and they can’t afford to buy more tickets.
“One-way tickets are now costing about R1 500 each,” said band member Lucinda Viljoen.
“We are musicians; we don’t have that amount of extra cash,” she said.
“It seems we just have to face the fact that we are going to lose out on our chance to play at Splashy Fen.”
The airline’s three airport offices have been closed, because, according to Govender, staff members were at risk in the face of the wrath of angry customers.
Velvet Sky has since arranged for Computicket to set up a call centre on its behalf to provide information to the airline’s affected customers.
The call centre number is 0861 835 838.
Govender said affected passengers could also make contact with the airline by calling its head office directly on 031 582 8700.
He cautioned that given the current call volumes, it could be difficult to get through.
That’s certainly true – I’ve had no luck at all.
Those who paid for their cancelled Velvet Sky tickets with their credit cards should apply to Velvet Sky for refunds, but if they don’t get their money back in 21 days, they should go ahead and apply to their banks for charge-back.
They will need to provide proof of when and how they applied to Velvet Sky for a refund.
To do so, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 086 214 5018.
For full details of charge-back procedures, contact your bank.