Mandurah holiday makers left thousands of dollars out of pocket over cheap Bali airline tickets

Hundreds of Mandurah holiday makers have rallied together to demand answers after purchasing cheap airline tickets to Bali.

Buyers of the $99 tickets attended a community forum in South Yunderup on Saturday to raise their concerns after many were left stranded without seats on the flights they had paid for.

Members of the group claim they bought tickets on Facebook pages such as Travel 2 Go, No Frills Flight Sale and $99 Jetstar Return Flights, which are no longer active.

Consumers claim they were led to believe they could book flights at any time in the two-three year validity of the tickets, but have been made to pay up to three times the original price for upgrades and unexpected extra costs.

Consumer Protection are investigating the claims, with more than 50 complaints totalling $80,000 in losses, lodged so far.

Many people from all over Australia have been issued what they believed they paid for - tickets to go to Bali at any certain time, no strings attached and that was all wrong.

Ian Grainger

Holiday maker Chrissy Pelicon, who has been collating all the experiences of affected buyers, said she felt "frustrated and angry".

"Some experiences have included tickets not being provided at all or people arriving at the check in counter at the airport and discovering they had no flights and then having to purchase new tickets at outrageous last-minute prices," she said.

"They have also ignored contact or sent unprofessional, rude or threatening replies to our contact, refused to refund or told people refunds had been given when in fact they hadn't.

"There has also been requests for more money with offers of upgrades, changes in rules including school holiday validity and cancellation of flights altogether for a variety of excuses like the plane being in for a service or the Bali government cracking down on bogans entering the country on cheap seats."

Former fraud squad detective Ian Grainger, who organised the community meeting and bought a number of tickets himself, told those in attendance it was time to seek a remedy to the situation.

"Many people from all over Australia have been issued what they believed they paid for - tickets to go to Bali at any certain time, no strings attached and that was all wrong," he said.

"But a lot of people are running around like chooks with their heads cut off not knowing what to do and we want to give them the information."

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Consumer Protection Conciliation representative Margaret Pinkus, who has been working on the case for a number of months, attended the community meeting to explain the current situation and take questions.

Ms Pinkus reassured holiday makers they were protected and should "feel okay".

"Your tickets that you purchased, and everything that was represented to you at the time of purchase, is protected under the little piece of legislation, the Australian Consumer Law," she said.

"Whether you paid by cash or a business entity at the time or just as individuals, if you paid for goods or services and they accepted your money, they are considered a trader under the law.

"If you don't get those goods or services, then that is not okay."

Ms Pinkus said she was trying to obtain refunds from the trader on behalf of affected consumers who have lodged a complaint with Consumer Protection.

Margaret Pinkus from Consumer Protection Conciliation assured holiday makers they were protected. Photo: Kaylee Meerton.

Margaret Pinkus from Consumer Protection Conciliation assured holiday makers they were protected. Photo: Kaylee Meerton.

"People can apply for a refund for any extra costs incurred so if you had to purchase tickets to get home, you're entitled to that money back," she said.

"Will they have those refunds? That's the big question and until we get a response back from those individuals, we don't know what position the business is in.

"Individuals can take the matter to the Magistrates Court and obtain an order from the Magistrate for your refund. Unless people are provided their ticket or their refund, then we will be actively encouraging everyone here and everyone affected to (do that)."

That money may have been spent elsewhere. It doesn't make it right but it is a fact that is on the cards.

Margaret Pinkus from Consumer Protection Conciliation

Ms Pinkus said negotiations would continue to determine if and when customers would get their money back.

"Our goal is to get everybody a refund, anyway we can and, if the trader says they have provided a refund, we don't take it on the trader's word - we check with our consumer and we want to see receipts," she said.

"We hope to have the answers regarding where everyone's money is by the end of the week.

"We are alsorequesting refunds for those with outstanding tickets as well because we are concerned that they are not able to provide those flights."

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A Facebook page made up of impacted customers created on August 26 already has more than 500 members. It shows countless posts from individuals, couples and families who have complained of losing money.

Holiday maker Ros Munro told the Mandurah Mail she now felt "a little bit silly" about buying the tickets.

"I even recommended them to my friends, all in good faith. I've come to regret that now," she said.

"I want to make sure any others aren't hurt in the future."

I even recommended (the tickets) to my friends, all in good faith. I've come to regret that now.

Ros Munro

Golden Bay couple Melanie and Spencer Rich saidthey had spent more than $1000 on tickets and upgrades but were still yet to make a single trip to Bali.

"We wanted to fly at the end of September to go over for the AFL grand final, but that's school holidays so we were told we would have to pay a $10 per ticket upgrade so we paid that," she said.

"As it got closer to the time, I asked her about the tickets again and she then told me it was going to be another upgrade of $168 per ticket, so at that stage I said we would think about it and we haven't really gone any further with that.

"Since then, this has all come out in the open so now we're in that grey area of whether to go ahead with it and possibly get stranded."

We bought some for Christmas presents and we've given our kids tickets as 18th and 21st birthday presents and now we feel bad as parents.

Melanie and Spencer Rich

Mr Rich said the cheap tickets had ended up costing them much more than they bargained for.

"We bought some for Christmas presents and we've given our kids tickets as 18th and 21st birthday presents and now we feel bad as parents," he said.

"We're just going to give our kids cash now because we want to give them a present - we've forked out double."

Mrs Rich said the community meeting had been informative and helpful.

"It is unfortunate but it's good to know there are other people out there who have been affected," she said.

"It also gave us a bit of direction, to know where it's heading and to know there is somebody trying to help us get our money back.

"We don't like our chances of getting a refund but it would be nice. At the end of the day, it is what it is."

Disgruntled customer Chris Kindness (left) discusses his experience with fellow affected buyers at Saturday's meeting in South Yunderup. Photo: Kaylee Meerton.

Disgruntled customer Chris Kindness (left) discusses his experience with fellow affected buyers at Saturday's meeting in South Yunderup. Photo: Kaylee Meerton.

Ms Pinkus did have some last words of advice for customers with affected or outstanding tickets.

"If anyone is travelling very soon, please contact the airline," she said.

"Consumer Protection is urging everybody to lodge a formal complaint.

"The more complaints we have, the more complete our picture is. I believe the people here are only a small portion so encourage anyone you know to lodge a complaint online."

Mandurah Mail was unable to contact Travel 2 Go, No Frills Flight Sale and $99 Jetstar Return Flights for comment.