Many Tasmanians are struggling to get the money they committed to their cancelled travel arrangements refunded by the travel agent they booked through.
According to one consumer advocate, he has provided advice to thousands of Australians who have had their travel plans affected by COVID-19 and are seeking to get their money back.
Australian travel agent Flight Centre has closed hundreds of stores and stood down a considerable chunk of its workforce throughout 2020 as it responds to a severely compromised customer base.
And Qantas and Virgin grounded a vast majority of their international flights in March as the pandemic swept the globe.
Westbury man Ron Birkby was anticipating a sunny Thai retreat in April before it was rescheduled and then cancelled as positive COVID-19 cases grew from hundreds to hundreds of thousands.
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He now has over $12,000 dollars unaccounted for after his travel agent directed him to the airline he was due to fly with, who then directed him back to the travel agent.
Now he has no idea where his money is.
"There is no proof of who has the money," Mr Birkby said.
"There are conflicting stories from Flight Centre and Thai Airways."
Mr Birkby said he did not know what to do next and that his "hands were tied" and he would "have to take their [the travel agent's] word for it".
Mr Birkby said he had dealt with a number of different consultants at the travel agent after the store he booked the trip at was was closed and then his case manager went on holiday.
A quick look through social media pages of travel agents reveals there are hundreds of disgruntled travellers wanting their money back, with many provided with little information when, or if, it will be forthcoming.
Adam Glezer, a consumer advocate has been helping Mr Birkby said, "there is a sheer lack of transparency in the travel space. Many customers are getting no help from their travel agent and are unable to speak with their suppliers directly".
"This has been the cause of a lot of frustration and a real feeling of helplessness".
"When a customer is not receiving a service or product that they paid for, they should be entitled to a full refund in my opinion."
Mr Glezer runs the Facebook group "Travel Industry Issues - The Need For Change for Australians" which acts as a support network for people going through situations like Mr Birkby's.
Mr Glezer said he was in midst of proposing legislative change to the Federal Government to help people in this situation, now and in the future.
"We want to make sure that people a) get their money back and b) this doesn't happen again," Mr Glezer said.
In a release Flight Centre said they "continue to process large volumes of refunds for customers".
"In some cases, funds are paid immediately by us to travel service providers, and in other cases, funds are held until the trip has been taken or 'availed'. This will depend on when we are contractually required to make payment to the travel service provider."
"The travel service provider may provide a different explanation to customers about where funds are held, and we know this is causing frustration for our customers."
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