New Zealand couple loses $24,000 after booking a useless travel itinerary via ‘Covid zero’ China
A grieving family has lost more than $24,000 after a travel website allowed them to book expensive plane tickets – though Covid travel restrictions allowed them to fully enter the transit country.
New Zealand couple Kelly Konsten and Hedley Ruffell booked a return flight to the Netherlands for themselves and their daughter after Mrs Konsten’s mother died unexpectedly.
The family desperately searched the internet for flights and found tickets on Kiwi.com that promised a relatively short trip, departing the next day from Auckland to Amsterdam via Guangzhou, China.
However, the couple were “completely stunned” when China Southern Airlines staff told them they could not board because they were not allowed to travel through China.
“He even expressed his disbelief that we could have booked these tickets,” Mr Ruffell . said stuff†
“He kindly checked the system and discovered that Kiwi.com had booked two separate flights, rather than one continuous journey with a layover.”
A New Zealand family was barred from boarding their flight from Auckland to Amsterdam, via Guangzhou, China, after staff told them they could not travel through China due to strict lockdown laws (pictured, Auckland International Airport)
China imposed a strict ‘zero Covid’ policy on April 1 after a deadly rise in Omicron cases gripped the country.
The entire country was locked down and all visas, including transit visas, were suspended.
Mr Ruffell was told the airline would not have allowed them to book the route as a one-way ticket due to travel restrictions imposed.
“It was surreal to be all wrapped up and ready at the airport and told we couldn’t board,” he said.
“Our initial disbelief turned to despair and sadness when we realized we would miss the funeral.”
Kelly Konsten booked flights for herself, daughter and husband through Kiwi.com – a Czech Republic-based travel website (Pictured)
Kiwi.com, based in the Czech Republic, denied responsibility and refused to refund the family their tickets.
According to Kiwi.com’s refund policy, passengers are eligible for a refund if the flight is canceled up to 48 hours before the scheduled departure.
A Kiwi.com spokesperson said that while the family’s situation was “worrying”, passengers were warned multiple times during the online booking process as a reminder to check travel requirements.
“The policy of most airlines is that they consider this a passenger error and they will not refund the money for a flight unless it is a ticket class, such as business or first class, that allows cancellation or rescheduling,” according to Kiwi.com.
The travel company said it offers a wide range of global travel options and does not block the display of restricted routes as they may be viable for other travelers.
“We only booked the tickets 24 hours in advance,” says Ruffell.
“We clearly missed the opportunity to attend her (Kelly) mother’s funeral and this can never be made up for.
“We feel cheated and abused in a time of already dire need.”
On its ‘travel during Covid-19′ information page, the website says it is the passengers’ responsibility to check official regulations’ and to ensure they are eligible to travel to any stopovers en route to their destination.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Kiwi.com for comment.
Shocked staff of China Southern Airlines told the family the airline would not have allowed them to book the route as a one-way ticket as China has suspended all visas, including transit visas (pictured, Boeing 737-8) from China South Airline
With a 1.2-star rating on Product Review, it’s not the first time Kiwi.com has left customers frustrated.
The company has received 322 one-star reviews about its refund and cancellation policy, communications, and customer service.
‘My flight was rebooked for the next day but my connecting flight was not and as a result I was stuck for 14 hours with no other option, even after asking for another ticket I had to book my own flight home’, wrote one reviewer on Tuesday.
“Another bad review, don’t use this company under any circumstances,” said a second.
‘I’ve never written a review in my life. However, the way Kiwi treats their customers is disgraceful. I am writing this to prevent others from making the same mistake. Do not book anything with this company,” said a third party, who claimed they were still waiting for a refund 12 months after booking their flight.