Bestjet Fiasco and Where You Go From Here

The fallout from failed online agent, Bestjet, just before Christmas, continues into the New Year. If you haven’t heard about it, then that means just two things; you have been out of touch with the news, or you didn’t hand over your hard earned cash or credit card to pay for tickets and travel plans you will never get to experience.

If you are aware, I am hoping that it is only because you heard it on the news, and not because you booked with Bestjet. 

I think it is best summed up in this interview on Your Money with Christopher Zinn, customer advocate, former journalist and media spokesman for Australian Consumers' Association, CHOICE.

Up until December, 2018, Bestjet was a legitimate online travel agent, but it was never far from controversy. As far back as 2014, a Facebook Page was set up called, Bestjet FAIL Bestjet SCAM and is littered with negative reports and claims that they were misleading customers.  

View the page here and you will read Sydney Morning Herald articles, A Current Affair reports and more and still in 2018 customers were unaware.

How and what happened is well document as far back as 2014, and in this article. However, like most scams or badly managed organisations, trading continued until it all imploded making victims of customers and employees.  

In addition to thousands of stranded and out of pocket Australian travellers, the collapse has also left a debit $96,629 for “Phillipines (sic) payroll, annual leave and termination notice”. 

Many were experienced travel and call centre operators, who are now without jobs and income for their families. I am aware of some enticed over to Bestjet from other international companies, like American Express. Further information here

It seems that many unsuspecting customers found the fares on SkyScanner App, where were unaware who they had actually booked with. Skyscanner is a travel fare aggregator website and travel metasearch engine based in Edinburgh, Scotland that derives its income from advertisers like Bestjet, who pay to have inquiries directed their way. One report after creditors meeting on Friday, suggests at as another unsecured credited Skyscanner is owned in excess of $700,000 for providing customer leads to Best Jet.

It’s a complicated affair and I have no idea how it will play out but from my thirty five plus years in the travel industry, I don’t expect anyone will get their money back from Best Jet. The industry is littered with such examples from Compass I, II & III, Air Australia, Canada 3000, Ansett Australia and more. Like the collapse of Ansett Australia, new owners were quick to realise the financial situation of their purchase that required them to call in administrators to try and sort out the mess. Once this happens, everything is ‘frozen’ and if there are an assets left, it’s the administrators job to try and sell these to pay the debts. Coming up with cash is their key focus but unless there are extensive assets left or available to be seized from directors, in my experience, unsecured creditors rarely get a look in.  

If you are unsure what this means to you, basically, if you are an out of pocket customer or staff member, you are unlikely receive anything back.  

So where do you go to from here if you have been affected? How do you make the best out of a bad situation?   

Christopher says that under consumer law, travellers who have lost tickets are entitled to a remedy from the company you paid, however, as he also cautions, just how you go about it in this case is unclear, especially as there appear to be no funds accessible from Bestjet.

He comments on the talk of a class action and I concur that even if this goes ahead, the prospect of ever getting any money back from a company that no longer has any, makes this more of a principled endeavour than one that will yield a refund. 

Your best option for you right now is to:

  1. Review your travel insurance, under insolvency clause, and 

  2. Contact your credit card provider to inquiry about a chargeback.

Undertaking this combined action is important, essential and time sensitive. This is further set out here on Fair Trading NSW website

There is no guarantee you will get a chargeback. The most common examples for when credit card chargebacks apply include:

  • goods or services delivered are not as described

  • non-supply or non-receipt within the agreed time frame

  • duplicated or fraudulent transactions

  • charges are made without your permission

  • insolvency - the trader you purchased goods or services from stops operation and you did not get what you paid for

  • unrecognised transactions.

The chargeback process is separate from other dispute resolution services like those available through eBay or PayPal. You may also have a right to a chargeback for PayPal purchases if your credit card is linked to your PayPal account, and PayPal’s dispute resolution process was unsuccessful.

There are some circumstances when a chargeback may not be available. For example, if you:

  • selected 'cheque' or 'savings' as the account type on a debit or EFTPOS card

  • paid with cash, money transfer, cheque, direct debit or BPAY

  • are eligible to lodge an insurance claim

  • have already been compensated.

There are usually time limits for card issuers to submit chargeback claims. Time limits vary and can be anywhere between 30 and 120 days from:

  • the transaction processing date - where the goods or services were immediately available; or

  • the last date that the cardholder expected to receive the goods or services - where the goods or services were to be provided after the transaction processing date.

There is a lot to take in but a few further points from me I would like to add in 

  • Just because it is on the internet doesn’t mean it is legitimate. 

  • Online travel agents have their place, but remember, when you book with them you are not booking directly with the airline nor will you receive the full and often free services of them as a travel agent, in the way you might have with your local bricks and mortar travel agent. 

  • Online travel agents provide you with a low service option, at sometimes lower prices; not always. 

Christopher Zinn suggests that like him, you use the services of a well well trusted travel agent,  Choose one you already have a good relationship with or alternatively look one who has been in business for a long time and has ATAS Travel Accredition. Seek to find one that has been in business for a long time, that has the skills and expertise to build the holiday you are looking and knows about the ups and downs and pitfalls you might encounter during your international travel, so you can avoid this. 

Build a relationship with one you connect with and can call to chat to anytime if you have a  query or concern. Many also offer an after hours service just in case you need help fast. 

I have lots of stories and examples of where the team and I have have been on hand in a crisis to help travellers get back on track before, during and after their travels. However, that;s a blog for another day. 

Nothing in life and on your travels is guaranteed. Unpredictable things come up, hotels are not what they are portrayed online or in photos, airlines and travel providers change schedules and inclusions, earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis happen. However, by using the mostly free services and advice of your trusted travel agent, you can avoid the lion’s share of angst and loss in circumstances like this.

If you have been impacted by Bestjet collapse, and you need assistance, just let me know and I will do my best to get you back on track and where you need to be.

Here's to smoother travel plans ahead for 2019.

NewsKristine Neil