An Australian online travel booking agency has gone into voluntary administration, leaving hundreds of travellers in the dark about their holiday plans.
Sydney-based company Fly365 was put in to voluntary administrator on Friday, closing down their website and Facebook page immediately afterwards causing mass confusion among holiday-makers who had paid the company for travel services.
The booking agency's website is no longer functional, and the app has also been shut down. For customers who have tried to contact the hotline, they are simply met with an automated voice message advising callers that the "Australian contact centre is currently closed."
Melbourne resident Stevie Somers – who had spent a total of AU$11,000 booking flights to Europe for himself, his partner and their family – was one of hundreds unsure about what will happen to their booking, which was made with Fly365 earlier this month.
Mr Somers says he was trying to choose his seat allocation, when his reservation number failed. After trying to make contact with the customer service centre at Fly365, he also hit a dead end.
In response to the collapse, Mr Somers set up a Facebook support group for others travellers who may be displaced by the sudden shutdown of Fly365.
Since being created, the group has more than 650 members – many of which may be left thousands of dollars out of pocket.
One Facebook user – Ms Lee – who joined the support group to seek answers on behalf of her parents who had used the online travel agency to book flights with Singapore Airlines – said while payment was received by Fly365, the funds were never given to Singapore Airlines.
"My parents' booking was made on December 28, 2019 and paid on the same day to Fly365," Ms Lee wrote on the group page.
"They received a Tax Invoice from Fly365 and the Booking Confirmation paperwork stating at the top 'You are ready to Fly'.
"(However) Fly365 did NOT confirm the booking with Singapore Airline within 72 hours (3 days) of the booking. Fly365 also did NOT pay Singapore Airline.
"After 72 hours, Singapore Airline automatically cancelled the booking, so no tickets were actually issued."
Ms Lee said that because Singapore Airlines has not received notification on the Fly365 liquidation, she may be forced to wait weeks for an answer from the airline about the status of her parent's funds.
"I'm not going to wait until next week to pursue this with the credit card company, since it is clear that my parents have not and will not receive what they have paid for," she wrote.
"I intend to pursue this today … Good luck everyone."
Another Facebook user said the whole situation was "appalling".
"So many people losing their money is appalling," one group member wrote on the group page.
Another group member said his booking was "auto cancelled" after the Fly365 failed to pay for his ticket with the airline.
"I spoke to (bank) ANZ immediately who advised they had received a lot of calls about this and would lodge a dispute and email the reference number," he explained.
"ANZ said if I lodge a chargeback and the tickets are honoured the chargeback will fail and I would lose my AU$3600. If the tickets are honoured I wouldn't need the chargeback. it's like the ultimate Catch-22."
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents said they were given no warning before the flight retailer went in to administration.
"This is a very regrettable situation and AFTA strongly believes that contributing circumstances beyond the control of AFTA and the ATAS (AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme) have resulted in this outcome," AFTA's chief executive, Jayson Westbury, said in a statement to news.com.au.
"AFTA does all that it can to monitor and review travel businesses who hold ATAS accreditation and for the most part this has enabled AFTA to predict certain outcomes – but on this occasion, unfortunately, AFTA was not in a position to either provide advance support to the business prior to its failure or predict this outcome.
"While the liquidation process will need to run its course, a much deeper review of the situation is being undertaken by AFTA and a further review of the ATAS scheme will be given serious consideration as it applies to online travel agents in Australia."
News.com.au was unable to directly contact Fly365 and liquidators Roger and Carson Pty Limited, who are acting for the company, are yet to respond to a request for comment.
Fly365 is just the latest in a string of online booking companies to collapse. In January 2019, dozens of Aussies were outraged after Bestjet went into liquidation just before Christmas.
British travel firm Thomas Cook also collapsed in September 2019 leaving hundreds of thousands of travellers stranded around the world.