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Fair Go: Wellington couple incur hefty costs for small change to airline booking

Buying an airline ticket isn’t just about paying for the seat – or your bag.

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Why do there seem to be so many dumb charges associated with altering your trip? Source: Fair Go

It can also come with some hefty costs if you want to make even the smallest change to your booking, as one Wellington couple found out.

Frances Golightly and Leo Fouhy booked a trip to see their grandchildren in Australia last year and used the website Webjet. It’s an online aggregator, offering a variety of prices and options from different airlines. The tickets Frances booked were through Virgin.

However, a change of circumstances meant the couple could no longer use the seats they’d booked, and they decided to ask for a refund.

"We couldn’t cancel them, however for a $100 per person for the flights, they could put them on hold and we could use them at a later date within six months," said Leo.

Which all seemed pretty reasonable, until Frances went to use the credit this year, and discovered the change fees and taxes were going to be more than a third of the original ticket price.

"They said because I hadn’t booked return flights, so they were four individual flights with four individual ticket issues."

But Frances had booked and paid for the seats as she always did – two return flights, and a total of two booking references.

Webjet was insistent though – for Frances to use the $1500 credit she had with the company it would cost her another $666. Neither she nor Leo were having it.

"We’re quite happy to pay the $100 each," said Frances.

"But not what they’ve said."

So, they came to Fair Go – and we got in touch with Webjet. The company immediately realised they’d made a mistake – and dropped $200 off the rebooking fees.

In a statement, Webjet said it acknowledges that it "should absorb one set of airline charges". Webjet doesn’t charge fees for cancellations or charges – but had incorrectly applied Virgin’s charges, which are $100 per person, per booking.

Webjet’s also offered the couple a $200 voucher towards their travel – so they won’t incur any airline charges at all.

As with all airline seats, Frances and Leo will still have to pay airport taxes, but they’re eligible to claim back the old taxes paid with their original tickets.