I am an Australian living in the UK and have been travelling extensively since moving here 3 years ago. I’d like to think I am quite Internet savvy so generally book my flights and accommodation online (usually the cheapest option).
I am travelling home to get married at the end of the year and have an out-of-the-way stopover there and back. Because of the importance of this trip I wanted to ensure I booked with someone whom I could call should anything go wrong. For the first time in a long time I spoke with a travel agent to arrange my flights. I live in Norwich, Norfolk and have booked my flights with Fred Olsen Travel.
The team in the office, particularly Emma, were extremely helpful and friendly and though my fiancé and I rearranged our dates many times before the final booking, Emma remained very patient and understanding. Then we paid for our flights…
Around 3 weeks after paying for our flights (we paid almost £1,000 each) I found out that I need to return home earlier than anticipated. At the time of the booking I was advised over email that there would be a fee for cancellation or amendments (approx £60). Imagine my shock when I was told that to change my booking it would cost me £368 (even though the new fare was less than the original) and to cancel it would be £311. When I voiced my surprise at these charges, I was told there was nothing they could do to help.
I then called the airline directly and they informed me that to change a booking, or indeed to cancel a booking, the cost would be a total of £75! I then went back to Fred Olsen Travel and demanded what the remaining £293 and £236 were for when amending or cancelling a flight (respectively). I was told that there is a £10 admin charge for Fred Olsen Travel and £10 for their business team who apparently made the booking on their behalf. Ok, so what about the rest of it?
Their answer: “Basically the charge of £368 includes the £75 admin charge from [the airline], the company we have booked them through on your behalf charges a £10 admin charge and we ourselves have to charge a £10 admin charge the additional cost of £273 is the increase of the fare on different sectors… but the additional cost is because the flights you want to change to are on a higher fare class. [Regarding the] cancellation charge… the cost to cancel is £291 but again we need to charge handling fee which is £20 on a cancelled booking totalling the £311 quoted.”
I was obviously extremely infuriated at the flippant nature of the responses that so casually spoke of these extortionate fees, particularly the cancellation fee (how could it possibly be £216 more for them to cancel the booking that the airline?). Fortunately after many phone calls and emails I was finally put through to someone who could make a decision for themselves and they ‘re-checked’ the changes I wanted to make and what the fare changes would be. Apparently these changes would incur no additional charge. Later that day my flights were changed at the very reasonable charge of £95.
I want to highlight the fact that though Emma and Kimberley at Fred Olsen Travel, Norwich weren’t able to help me personally during all of this, they were very patient with my numerous emails and phone calls (not all of them friendly). I may consider booking with Fred Olsen Travel again after this outcome, but more importantly, because of these two ladies.
The moral of this rant: I am normally someone who shies away from confrontation but this time I couldn’t take it lying down. I’m not saying if you try to make changes or cancel your flights you can get away with paying the minimal amount or nothing at all, I’m just saying don’t just take their word for it - look into it and question, question, question!