A City of London accountant who claims to owe almost £750 after his flight was canceled more than 15 months ago has been offered a ‘pitiful’ £28 voucher in compensation. Ben-Auret Vorster, from South Africa, took an 11-hour flight from Heathrow Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, to visit family for Christmas on December 19, 2020.
Days after landing, all direct flights from South Africa to the UK were canceled amid a rise in coronavirus cases – leaving Ben, 30, with no choice but to buy alternative flights. Spending £500 of his own money, he bought new flights via a Turkish airline, eventually landing in London at the end of January 2021.
Over the past 15 months, he says he has constantly contacted Virgin Atlantic and lastminute.com in an attempt to get his money back, but without success. Speaking to MyLondon, Ben, who now lives in the City of London, said: “I tried to send so many emails and calls – but couldn’t get anywhere. J I pretty much gave up at this point.”
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It was the day Boris Johnson announced the Tier Four restrictions in December 2020 that Ben remembers being in a taxi on the way to Heathrow Airport. He said: “I wasn’t sure if I should take the risk. But I thought about the prospect of being away from my family for Christmasand I decided to fly away.”
A few days after arriving in South Africa, the coronavirus situation worsened and the British government took the decision to ban all direct flights from South Africa. He returned to London on his fourth attempt with a Turkish airline, with the flight costing around £500.
Ben added: “I first tried contacting Virgin Atlantic and then lastminute.com – who I booked through. They didn’t have a working phone number for at least three months during that time. I don’t Could tell anyone about customer service about everything.
“I was able to join Virgin Atlantic but was told that because I had booked through a third party I had to contact them. Midway through last year I was finally able to join someone at last minute.com.After asking for a refund I was only offered a £28 voucher or £0 cash refund.It was pitiful.
After emailing people from both companies, he wasn’t getting anywhere quickly. Originally an online system recorded that he was not entitled to a refund as it indicated that he had boarded his originally booked return flight. “It was obviously impossible because it was cancelled,” added Ben.
“It feels like forever now, and I’ve almost given up – but I would really like to use this money to visit my family later this year. I just think with everything that’s going on, like the cost of going through the crisis and increasing the bills, how disgusting that big companies can take advantage of people like that.”
A spokesperson for lastminute.com said: “We were initially advised by the supplier that no refunds were due, but we are contacting the supplier again to verify their cancellation policy as we are bound by the airline agreement. We are also in contact with the customer in question and see if we can obtain further information on the cancellation and refund situation.” Virgin Atlantic has also been approached for comment.
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I’m Sam, a reporter at MyLondon with a particular interest in legal and crime reporting. I started in September 2021, and am based in Ealing. You can follow my facebook page here.
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