Intrepid Travel, a major adventure travel company that offers more than 1,000 worldwide escorted tours, has changed and backdated their refund policy in response to a large amount of trips having been cancelled amid the COVID-19 global crisis.
This is the second major tour company to respond to COVID-19 cancellations by changing their refund policy, following Topdeck‘s altered refund policy earlier this month.
The original refund policy included the following:
“If we cancel your trip, you can transfer amounts paid to an alternate departure date or receive a full refund. In circumstances where the cancellation is due to external events outside our reasonable control refunds will be less any unrecoverable costs.”
Customers have now been warned that they are unable to claim any refund they may have previously been entitled to, backdated to the 14th of March. In place of a refund, customers will now be given a credit voucher of 110 percent which can be used for future trips with the company, as long as the trips are booked prior to the 30th of April 2022.
Customers which had been promised a full refund, upon the cancellation of their trips due to travel restrictions, have now been told that this offer has been retracted and that they are only entitled to the 110 percent worth of credit. In response to this, customers have become outraged with the change, prompting them to complain to state authorities.
Declan Gallagher was one customer who had his $6,000 India tour cancelled. Flight Centre, who booked the tour, charged its own $300 fee for cancelling. Although he was originally offered a 75 percent refund, this offer was rescinded within 24 hours and swapped for the tour credit.
In a statement to The Guardian, Gallagher expressed that this would have been “of no use” to him when he had lost his job and “desperately require(d) the funds to live”.
In response to the issues customers have had with the policy change, Intrepid Travel stated that they were doing the best they could to assist more than 30,000 customers who had been affected by travel restrictions. They said that they were aiming to resolve individual concerns with customers based on their seperate circumstances.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have guided customers regarding cancelled trips, stating:
“If you had a right to a refund under these terms and conditions at the time you purchased your ticket, businesses are not permitted to change the terms at a later time to deny you a refund.”
While future travel credits would benefit the company itself with the up-keeping of cash flows throughout the travel supply chain, it is questionable whether these credits are the most ethical course of action in response to this crisis when many customers have lost their jobs.
Going back on a promise to provide a refund to a large amount of customers may save money for companies now, however will most likely hinder any company’s ability to retain customer’s loyalty in the future.
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