From Tom Manwaring, Interim Executive Chair, Australian Federation of Travel Agents

In what has been a difficult month in a difficult year for so many, there have been some bright spots. The addition of $130 million in round two of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support program to bring the total of tailored support to $258 million for travel agents, businesses and wholesalers was very welcome. This month also saw a commitment from the Tasmanian Government of $1 million in support for travel agents.

What was more good news and a win for common sense was the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) setting aside an earlier order that a Sydney travel agent pay $15,500 to a couple whose South American holiday was cancelled due to COVID. This follows a similar decision by a differently constituted NCAT appeal panel that another travel agent had to refund $2,336 for flights cancelled due to COVID. Both cases hinged on the terms and conditions and reinforced the role of the travel agent as an agent for suppliers.

In the case of the South American trip, the agent’s T&Cs said it “is not itself a transport, tour, event or accommodation provider. It acts only as an agent for those service providers.”

In the flights case, the return airfares to India were booked with Malaysia Airlines. The T&Cs in that contract “acknowledged that the appellant was acting as agent for the carrier”.

The appeal panel found that in both cases the agent’s duties were to propose and arrange travel-related services. “That being the case, we do not consider that there is any basis on the available evidence for the respondents to claim or recover against the appellant compensation for a breach of the statutory guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law,” the appeal panel said.

There are two important take-aways here. Firstly, make sure that your T&Cs are appropriately detailed and that they are accepted. Secondly, if you have a decision go against you, appeal.


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