Thousands of passengers who had flights cancelled last year by Thai Airways will have to wait another three months to discover whether they will be refunded or have lost their money.
The airline has faced financial problems since last spring, leaving a trail of passengers who had flights cancelled waiting for refunds. Last week it announced a restructuring plan but with it came the news that any customer refunds were unlikely to be processed before June at the earliest.
Some passengers have been waiting almost a year to get their money back from the Thai national carrier, which continues to take new bookings.
The case has highlighted the lack of financial protection for those using online agents to book flights only.
Customers who had booked flights and accommodation from an agent were protected by the package holiday rules, as were those who bought flights directly from the Thai Airways website and paid by credit card.
However, those who used an online travel agent to book flights but organised their accommodation separately will have to claim on their travel insurance – and will be successful only if they bought one of the 50% of policies that pay out in such circumstances.
Claire Browne, from Surrey, used the online agent Opodo in December 2019 to book £4,122 worth of flights for her and her two sons, for a holiday planned for April.
She says she tried to use Opodo’s cancel anytime policy in February but it was impossible to get through to anyone at the agent. Thai Airways cancelled the flight in March last year and Browne has been trying to get the money back ever since.
“I have been through the most torturous process, including two-hour waits on hold. Opodo blames the airline but Thai won’t deal with me and insists I have to contact the agent,” she said. “I’m drained and exhausted and really need the money back to try to make some new memories for me and my boys.”
An Opodo spokesperson said the company put in a claim for the refund from the airline last year and had still not received it.
“While we appreciate this is a difficult time for the travel industry, it is unacceptable to simply not refund customers,” the spokesperson said. “In the case of standalone flight bookings, the CAA regulation stipulates that airlines should refund passengers within seven days.”
The Guardian understands that there are thousands of people in Browne’s position after asking for a refund rather than a voucher, not only with Thai Airways but with a number of airlines.
Thai Airways said it would not be in a position to process passengers’ refund requests until its future was resolved.
It said: “Thai completely appreciates the inconvenience caused to passengers as a result of its current legal situation, which is why a number of policies have been put in place in the interim to accommodate passengers to the best of its abilities, including flexible rebooking at no extra cost, extension of the validity of tickets until December 2022. We are truly sorry about this.”
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