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Refunds are on the table for grounded Kulula passengers

Wendy Knowler Consumer journalist
Kulula customers affected by the flight suspensions from March 12 to 16 can elect to claim a refund, or Travel Bank credit to their full ticket value. File photo.
Kulula customers affected by the flight suspensions from March 12 to 16 can elect to claim a refund, or Travel Bank credit to their full ticket value. File photo.

Good news for the thousands whose Kulula flights were cancelled during the airline’s recent five-day grounding — Comair has decided it will issue refunds.

Both British Airways’ domestic flights and Kulula flights took to the skies again a week ago after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reinstated Comair’s operating licence, having withdrawn it on March 12 due to concerns about its safety management systems in the wake of three “significant” failures on recent flights.

However, while British Airways ticket-holders were told they could apply for a refund on their cancelled flights — and expect to get their money back within six to eight weeks, “or longer” — Kulula customers were told their only recourse was a credit valid for only six months.

Asked to explain the difference in policy, a Comair spokesperson told TimesLIVE at the time: “Comair operates British Airways flights on a franchise basis and consequently British Airways’ ‘Book with Confidence’ policy applies to those services.”

The company declined to be drawn on why it had chosen not to extend the same recourse to its Kulula customers who were affected by flight cancellations.

On Monday, Comair announced its about-turn by means of a tweet on its Kulula account: “Kulula customers affected by the flight suspension from March 12 to 16 can elect to claim a refund or Travel Bank credit to their full ticket value. While the cancellations were unavoidable, we recognise the inconvenience and wish to extend both offers to affected passengers.”

Asked to comment last week on Comair’s refusal to consider refunding affected Kulula passengers, a National Consumer Commission spokesperson told TimesLIVE the commission was engaging with Comair and the CAA, as it’s required to do “when (we) identify practices inconsistent with the Consumer Protection Act”.

Kulula customers who are out-of-pocket, forced to buy expensive flights on other airlines when their flights were cancelled, can expect more inconvenience in the form of a long wait for their money — up to 10 weeks, Comair said. After sending their refund requests to refunds@comair.com, they were told it could take up to 20 days for a response to the email.

Those who have opted to rebook their cancelled flights with Kulula are battling to get through to Comair’s contact centre due to what the company calls “higher than usual volumes”.

When “Neil R” tweeted on Tuesday night “Don’t have time to wait for more than 10 minutes with no answer. Can someone contact me”, Kulula’s Twitter response team said: “Kindly contact our team at the airport tickets sales office for further assistance or email MNContactCentre@comair.co.za for further assistance.”

Holders of tickets for cancelled flights have the option of getting refunds another way. They can approach the bank which issued their credit card, provide proof of the non-delivery and lodge a chargeback dispute, in terms of which their bank approaches the service provider’s bank to recall the funds.

CONTACT WENDY: E-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za; Twitter: @wendyknowler; Facebook: wendyknowlerconsumer

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