Recently I posted about my travel agent at STA Travel not passing on a cash refund to be passed on by an airline for a cancelled flight to China, and received some great advice which I am really grateful for.
The situation has evolved a little now and I wanted to seek further advice/guidance if possible, I do know that for proper legal advice I should talk to a lawyer (which I have done briefly), but I am not quite at that stage yet and hoping it will not be necessary - here is the situation as it stands now.
1, The STA Travel agent has confirmed to me last night that she is now able to lodge a refund request and has done so, but she claims the airlines can take up to 3 MONTHS to give the money back, that sounds a little extreme to me, but I do understand these are unprecedented times for airlines. Is there anything I can do to challenge the 3 month wait?
2, My travel agent STA is still saying they are unable to pass this refund on to me as cash (even though the airline is providing cash) - the reason being is that they have a new policy in relation to this based on advice from the UK government, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the association of British Travel Agents and equivalent bodies internationally including New Zealand. I believe this is a pretty weak argument, as none of these organizations supersede NZ law or the terms and conditions in the fine print of my tickets at the time of purchase, they are not even NZ organizations.
Should I be waiting 3 months for a refund? the airline is Lufthansa and I know European law states airlines must provide a refund within 7 days, what would be the case in New Zealand for a German airline? or would there be a case that since STA provided the ticket/service that they would be required to refund me within 30 days as required by consumer guarantees act and then seek the refund from the airline themselves? it is mentioned in the fine print that they only facilitate the contract between us and the airline (which is another strong argument I am entitled to the cash the airline is providing) so maybe this same sentence may exclude them from being required to give me the refund when they have not yet got it from the airline?
As far as I am aware the sooner I have my money back the better, and I will fight this as hard as I can and as long as I can because I am sure I am entitled to the refund. I am currently considering a charge back via the bank or taking this case to the disputes tribunal, is there something else I should look into? I have heard a charge back must be made within a certain time and also that they may not do it to airlines at the moment considering what is happening, but I also know a person I work with just had this done and it worked for them and theirs was against an agency and not the airline, like my case will be.
P:S I do sympathize for the travel industry in these tough times, but the reality here is I am not fighting an airline for a refund as opposed to a voucher, this is a situation where the airline are returning MY money to the agent as cash, but STA are holding my cash against my will. Returning my money will not hurt STA to much as it is only their commission on the tickets (probably a small percentage) that they would loose.