Last year had felt like the whole world was on a crazy rollercoaster ride, but we just couldn’t get off it. The pandemic affected many people in different ways, including their dream holidays being cancelled. While some travel agency companies were helpful and empathetic towards their customers, others weren’t.
Online travel and leisure retailer Lastminute.com has faced backlash as a company because of their actions and the way they have treated customers so far. In December 2020, the company signed an agreement to pay £7 million in refunds to customers who had their holiday packages cancelled due to COVID-19. The company signed the agreement after being investigated by Competition Markets Authority (CMA).
Lastminute.com is expected to refund all customers who had their holiday packages cancelled by the end of January 2021.
However, the whole refund process has taken a heavy toll on customers. Many are still waiting for a refund since last year and as they continue to pursue their refunds, the customer service at Lastminute.com has gotten worse.
More than 6,000 people have been affected by this company and all have had a different experience; with some even experiencing illegal actions from the company. Travel companies are able to offer travel vouchers as an option, but they must offer a cash refund to customers within 14 days. But major travel companies such as Lastminute.com have automatically been giving vouchers and have refused to pay cash refunds to customers.
One angry holidaymaker named Emma explained that her experience with Lastminute.com was awful. “I booked flights with them last March to go to New York in January and I even paid extra for insurance. I rang them in October since COVID was still looking bad and I wanted to see if I could change the dates. I received an email from them in March to say that I had to buy a premium package so that I could cancel or change anytime. Basically, Lastminute.com wouldn’t let me do this unless I wanted to lose my money. ” She said.
Emma rang the company a week before she was due to fly, because her area was heading into a tier 4 lockdown. Lastminute.com said that they would put in a request for a refund, but she hasn’t heard from them since. She has tried to contact them via email and on the phone, and even though they have stated that she would get a full refund, she has not seen any action towards that.
Another angry holidaymaker named Heather has also had a bad experience with the company. “I booked my flight to Cape Town in January last year and I was due to fly in April last year. My flight was cancelled due to COVID. Initially Lastminute were proactive when it came to letting me know the flight was being cancelled; however that quickly changed.” She said.
Heather persisted for months by calling and emailing them. “I have lost count of the number of emails I have sent asking for an update. I used to call every week, but the people answering the calls became ruder every time I called.” She said.
Her refund is still in ‘process’ since May last year and she has not seen any action from their side ever since. However, she is still persistent and doesn’t want to lose her money, since she has every right to receiving her full refund.
Another angry customer who is still waiting for a refund from this company is Claire. “I was stranded in Italy, so I booked emergency flights home with Bravofly on 9th March to fly on 11th March. But on 10th March they were cancelled. I managed to get over the border and got flights home with Easyjet. Once I was home I contacted Bravofly and filled out the form for a refund.” She said.
Bravofly is a partnering company with Lastminute.com. Claire was told that the refund would take 7 to 14 days, but it never happened. She then opened a case with PayPal and escalated the case.
“I received a phone call from Bravofly saying that if I dropped the case,they would refund me the next day and stupidly I did this. Since then I have been sending around 7 emails a day to both Bravofly and Lastminute.com.” She said.
It wasn’t until August when she received a phone call from Bravofly, where they explained that they were waiting for the refund from British Airways and that they couldn’t refund her until they had it.
“I phoned British Airways, who told me that they had refunded Bravofly in April. I informed Bravofly of this on many emails – no replies. I tried calling but their numbers don’t exist anymore. So I carried on with the daily emails.” Claire explained.
In November, she received an email with the same excuse of waiting for a refund from British Airways. Claire replied to the email with what she knew from British Airways, but there was no response. In order to take things further, she has contacted SECO and CMA and is continuing with the daily emails. She has now been trying for 11 months to get her money back.
According to research carried out by Money Saving Expert, they concluded that Lastminute.com was ranked 7th by customers in a survey for being one of the worst companies to give a full refund. For this survey, 694 people responded who booked through this agency and only 8% from these responders have received their full refund.
Another survey that they carried out was the duration that customers waited for their refunds from travel companies and Lastminute.com was ranked 5th for being the worst. Only 4% of the responders for the survey received their refund within less than a month and 38% waited for more than six months.
As for satisfaction with Lastminute.com, a survey was carried out again by Money Saving Expert with 900 responders voting -92%, making the company come in 59th place. There has been an update with this survey, with an additional -15%.
My personal experience
I will also share my personal experience with this company, because my plans were also affected. I booked to fly to Japan last year for March 2021, but my flights were cancelled last year in October. When I spoke to someone in customer service they said that they would request a refund from the airlines. I never received a confirmation email from them and I persisted for two months by calling them, in order to ensure that I would receive a full refund. After being reassured by different people in customer service, they finally sent me an email in December confirming the refund process.
They told me it would take two months for the refund to be finalized and every day I was checking the process through my account online. In January I decided to call them, only to find out that they were no longer taking calls and forwarding any calls to an automated service where a bot tells you that they are receiving a high volume of calls and then hangs up. I then took the initiative of contacting the airlines I was supposed to fly with, and they both confirmed to me that they had already refunded Lastminute.com the full amount.
I then emailed the company, explaining this to them and they finally responded. They admitted that the airlines had refunded them in November, but because of the high amount of work that they had, they weren’t able to finalize it sooner. They offered me a voucher with the full amount of what I had originally paid or a cash refund but with a £35 charging fee for the refund. To my dismay, I took the cash refund option with the confirmation that it will be refunded to me in 14 days. I am now waiting for my refund.