Simple steps make travel more secure
■ The recent collapse of a travel agency in WA and similar instances over east should send a warning to Australians looking to buy airfares and/or holiday accommodation.
Consumers who had paid cash, in person or by direct bank transfer for travel services lost their money when the agent failed to pass funds on to suppliers or cancelled booked travel arrangements and kept the refunds.
A number of these businesses specialised in providing travel services to particular groups. None of the agents were members of an industry accreditation scheme.
Whether booking through an agent in person or online, you have rights under the Australian Consumer Law but you can protect yourself further.
When looking for a travel agent, check they are accredited — for example, through the Australian Federation of Travel Agents’ accreditation scheme, ATAS.
Find out whether the agent offers insurance to cover the collapse of carriers and travel agents in their group.
Check that they advertise services and deals clearly and accurately.
See if you can pay by credit card or by selecting credit on a MasterCard or Visa debit card.
You may pay extra fees but you can seek a chargeback from your bank or card provider if you don’t get what you paid for.
Also find out if there is a cancellation fee for transport or accommodation if you are unable to travel.
When buying from online sellers, check they are a reputable travel agent by searching for the business name and reading online reviews, and that they provide real-world contact details.
Also make sure the website payments page includes security features, such as a padlock symbol and address starting with https://.
If an airline refuses to allow you to board due to overbooking, insist on being provided with meals and accommodation until the airline arranges a seat for you on the next available flight.
Contact Consumer Protection on firstname.lastname@example.org. au or call 1300 30 40 54 for assistance and advice on your options, or to alert us that the travel provider may no longer be operating.