Picture: AP/Matt Rourke

Durban - A national travel chain has cancelled its franchise agreement with its branch in Gateway, Umhlanga, after clients said they had paid for air tickets for their holidays, but the return flights, and in some cases accommodation and connecting flights, had not been booked.

Harvey World Travel in Gateway has had its franchise agreement terminated, and the

branch owner and managing director, Guy Springer, had until the close of business yesterday to remove all the company’s branding from his shop.

Springer’s attorney, however, said that he and his client did not accept the termination “at this stage”.

The agreement was terminated after at least two families claimed they had been stranded overseas after finding their paid-for return flights had not been booked. In addition to paying up to R250 000 for flights and holiday packages, the travellers had to fork out more for new return flights.

The parent company said it had received “various complaints” against Springer and the franchise and was investigating to ascertain the extent of the damage.

Springer said the non-bookings had been a result of human error during a “hectic” season. He said he had agreed to refund the parties in an arranged payment plan.

A Mount Edgecombe businessman and his family were among the travellers who were left stranded. He had booked a January holiday in Mauritius in July last year, and paid about R120 000 for the package, which included flights and accommodation.

At the airport they found that their return flights had not been booked.

The family said Springer had apologised profusely for the “unforgivable” error and promised to repay the money paid for the new flights.

The businessman said the incident was a “serious case” and that although he had been able to afford the return flights, other people might not have been in the same position.

Rosemary Moss, the managing director of Harvey World Travel, confirmed that this was not the only complaint received against Springer.

“We have been investigating this matter and are trying to establish the extent of the damage caused to various customers over the December holidays. We are considering instituting criminal proceedings against the relevant individuals as soon as our investigation is complete.”

She said the franchise agreement had been ended on Tuesday, with immediate effect, as Springer had brought the company brand into disrepute.

“There are things he has done wrong and he has damaged our brand and we cannot allow that,” Moss said.

Springer, however, said such errors were not unheard of in the travel industry, especially over a busy holiday season, and that he intended to honour his word to refund the family.

Meanwhile, on January 7, another family complained of a similar problem on customer complaints site Hellopeter.com.

Char12 wrote that her party of 15 travellers had booked flights from South Africa to the US on December 26, and were fortunate to have checked in online where they found that their flights had not been confirmed by Springer and had been cancelled.

They had paid him R250 000.

Char12 said their hotel accommodation and internal flights in the US had also not been booked, leaving them “stuck” in a foreign country.

Springer said this error was made as the individuals in the group had had constant conflicting desires on flight plans.

He said he had since spoken to the family and had arranged a payment plan with them.

“I am not running away. Nothing was sinister or malicious about the mistakes. It was a hectic time of the year and I will pay back the money,” he said.

Stringer’s attorney, Mike Nolan, said he had been in contact with the attorneys for Harvey World Travel and still needed to investigate the franchise agreement before advising his client further and making any media comments.

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The Mercury