Holiday hell: consumer advocate appalled by Coffs case
It was going to be their last holiday together.
Christiaan Dolislager and his wife Anna Lang, who was gravely ill with cancer, were to take the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth in the first quarter of last year.
“It was going to be our last trip as she was pretty ill. Taking the train would be no stress on her and we were really looking forward to it but then with COVID it got cancelled and she went down hill.”
Anna died in April last year and Christiaan has been trying ever since to get a refund of the $8,000 already paid.
“And now they keep sending me advertising material and wanting to know if I want to go on trips and she has passed away,” Christiaan said.
Christiaan is 74 and lives in Bellingen and is originally from Holland. Anna grew up in New Zealand and they met while bush walking in the Blue Mountains.
“I can’t go by myself, I would end up a mental wreck, I can’t do that, honestly, we’ve been married for 30 years and even without that they should refund the money.”
In frustration, he contacted Adam Gelzer who is rapidly building a reputation for himself helping thousands of Aussies get refunds from cancelled 2020 trips.
When his holiday to Italy and Israel was cancelled due to COVID-19 last year, he struggled to get his money back and this set him on the path to help others.
The sales manager turned consumer advocate is now helping reform consumer laws relating to the travel industry.
He now monitors several social media groups, including Travel Industry Issues - The Need For Change For Australians with a combined following of around 16,000 members.
He was particularly appalled to hear of Christiaan’s situation.
“I couldn’t and still can’t understand how a company can morally not offer a refund when someone has passed away. By not offering a refund, all they have done is add additional trauma that Christiaan certainly doesn’t need,” Adam said.
“I am really hoping that they do the right thing and offer Christiaan a full refund for both him and his late wife. That way, he can go through the grieving process without this additional financial worry on his mind and finally put this ordeal behind him.”
He says travel companies offering customers credits with no option of a refund has been extremely common practice during the pandemic.
“This is very worrying and it is one of the concerns we have raised in our proposed legislative reform which has been sent to the federal government.”
Christiaan received an email in December last year from Discover Australia Holidays saying: ‘refunds are not being generally offered by suppliers under your booking’s particular scenario, and only flexible travel credits have been offered by them. However, based on the information you have provided, you have extenuating circumstances and we believe you should qualify for a compassionate refund.’
But this email has provided little comfort for Christiaan.
“In the past I have been contacted twice by their representatives by phone telling me that a refund will not be forthcoming and suggesting I can rebook another trip.”
The Advocate has contacted the company for a response.