Travel agency failure hits Christchurch couple

A Christchurch couple who had to cancel their big OE are now fighting to get their money back from a travel agent but may have to take a big hit.

Nik and Caitlyn Stefanissin booked their arrangements through STA Travel New Zealand, whose parent company has filed for insolvency.

The Christchurch couple said they booked with STA Travel last year, paying about $5000 for return flights with Emirates and $15,000 for a Contiki tour around Western Europe.

But when Covid-19 hit, their trip, booked for the end of April this year, was cancelled by Emirates and Contiki.

Ever since, they said they had been battling with STA Travel to retrieve their refund.

There are more than 200 stores in 37 countries, including 14 in New Zealand.

Mr Stefanissin said he and his wife had been planning the trip for about three years, and poured their savings into it.

After the trip was initially cancelled, STA Travel said they would receive a full refund after it had been retrieved from Emirates and Contiki, Mr Stefanissin said.

This was later altered to say travel credit, but Mr Stefanissin said they had always maintained their right to receive a full refund.

About a month ago, STA Travel contacted them to say their refund had been provided by Emirates, but they had heard nothing since, nor regarding their funds still with Contiki.

The New Zealand Herald was unable to make contact with STA Travel yesterday.

Gilpin Travel director Keith Sumner said the situation with STA Travel showed what was at stake for the travel industry and Kiwis still owed money.

"The problem now is without these travel agencies operating, Kiwis could have to fight for themselves to get refunds from the international operators."

Alice Morrison (22) also booked her arrangements - although not hotels - through STA Travel New Zealand.

Alice Morrison
Alice Morrison

She had planned to travel to Greece and Croatia in June and then move to the United Kingdom, where she would have stayed for two years, but Covid-19 prevented that.

Morrison said she would approach Singapore Airlines directly to try to obtain refunds for $1200 worth of flights.

She was not too hopeful about recovering costs such as insurance and expected to be at least $1000 out of pocket.

STA Travel has an outlet in Dunedin and its website did not state explicitly last night that it would be closed this week. The national website, however, was "down for maintenance".

Parent company STA Travel Holding AG said in a statement: “The global magnitude of the pandemic crisis has brought the travel industry to a standstill, including STA Travel, a student and youth travel company".

 — Additional reporting The New Zealand Herald



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