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How to correct online flight bookings

Many airlines are continuing to issue 'non-refundable' tickets.

Many airlines are continuing to issue 'non-refundable' tickets.

Published Mar 26, 2012

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

It’s become the norm for consumers to make airline bookings – particularly domestic ones – online, but best you have your wits about you, because 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.

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Bibi Haajarah wrote to Consumer Watch 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 Joburg 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 – not a cent,” she said.

“I need to know if it’s possible for them to do this. I don’t know much about the Consumer Protection Act.

“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 even 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.

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“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 that she is fully reimbursed.”

The Consumer Protection Act allows consumers to cancel advance bookings and be refunded, but suppliers may charge them a “reasonable” cancellation fee.

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The low-cost airlines are contesting this, saying their business model was based on a “no refunds” policy – the same as 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.

But given SAA’s 12-hour arrangement with respect to “finger trouble” bookings – which sadly the airline employee Ms Haajarah dealt with was apparently not aware of – I thought I’d find out whether other local airlines had similar procedures.

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Airlines’ responses:

MANGO

Passengers are able to correct bookings themselves through logging into our website or by ringing our call centre to effect changes to a booking; routing, name changes, departure and return dates.

However, we do charge an administration fee of R170 for processing this and, should an actual flight date and time be changed, and the next available fare is higher, the difference between the two 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.

We allow this cooling-off period because we appreciate that customers making bookings directly through our website can and occasionally do make mistakes. If these are corrected within 24 hours, there are 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.

If the fare on the new flight is lower than the original fare, no refund will be issued. - Pretoria News

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