My story

If you have experienced the stress or pain of being unable to fly to your home country for legitimate reasons, I probably understand some of what you’ve been through…

Back in July 2020, my family (wife and two boys) had planned to fly from London to Brisbane to be with my very elderly father in Australia who had been deteriorating rapidly.  We had a Visitor Visa for my wife (who is not Australian) and the exemption from the Australian government for her to enter the country.

We were booked our flights with an online travel agent (Dreamworld Travel, based in Ealing, London).  Due to everything happening with COVID-19, our flights were cancelled for a month. We digested the situation and came up with a plan…

We decided to stay in Italy with my wife’s family for a month until it was time to fly.  The looked at the positive: we could spend time with my wife’s family before we travel to the other side of the planet for who knows exactly how long.  We thought, when it’s time for the flight to Brisbane, we will fly back to London to take it.

Which is what we did… well the first part anyway.  We travelled to Italy to stay with family.  In the meantime, we were even able to log into Cathay Pacific’s website and choose our preferred type of meal for each of us for the flight to Australia.  Lovely.

Then the fun really started.  Our flight for 1 August 2020 was also cancelled.  From Italy, we continually tried to re-schedule our Cathay Pacific flight with our travel agent (Dreamworld Travel based in Ealing, London).  It was impossible to ever speak to anyone on phone.  Their system would just put you into a queue giving you an estimate of how long you would need to wait before speaking to someone.  After you had waited for 20-30min and you were down to the last “1 minute” in the queue, you were suddenly cut off.  How about emailing them or using their website’s contact form?  We did both, and every time – after waiting 3 to 4 days – we received the strangest responses, such suggesting another flight with another airline or informing us we need to pay other fees to be re-booked.  We tried to re-schedule with Dreamworld Travel for weeks.

Eventually, we were very confused.  We thought our flight was booked with Cathay Pacific.  As such, we thought we were under Cathay Pacific’s policy that we could make unlimited changes to re-schedule our flight without charge.  We called Cathay Pacific numerous times.  We read or re-read through everything found in the emails from Dreamworld Travel and everything on their website about their policies and procedures.  Eventually, we pieced everything together:

  • We did not exist on Cathay’s Pacific’s booking system. Although I was previously able to login into their system to choose the flight meals, we no longer existed on their system.
  • When we originally booked and paid for our flight with Dreamworld Travel, the travel agent had only made a ‘provisional booking’ with Cathay Pacific (Dreamworld Travel did not pay Cathay Pacific anything for this) – this meant that our seats were only reserved and only for a time. Therefore, it meant that Dreamworld Travel had our money but had not paid for anything on our behalf.
  • Dreamworld Travel’s policy was to issue tickets/e-tickets for your flight when the flight was imminent (e.g. a week or two before the flight). (Cathay Pacific said it was ‘unusual’ for a travel agent to work in this manner).
  • The reason we did not exist on Cathay Pacific’s system is because Dreamworld Travel never paid Cathay Pacific for our tickets to be issued.

The conclusion? Because we never had our tickets issued to us by Dreamworld Travel and after our flight was cancelled (and the provisional booking wiped from Cathay Pacific’s system), we were not covered by the airline’s policy (which would have allowed unlimited re-bookings and penalty-free refunds).

We made a further investigation, including:

  • reading Trustpilot reviews of Dreamworld Travel
  • via email, requesting a refund multiple times from Dreamworld Travel (with no response)
  • finding out the timeframe for a chargeback on our original payment card

We came to understand a few more things:

  • Many reviews of Dreamworld Travel on Trustpilot said people had been waiting for so long to receive a refund that they were now outside of the period when they could have disputed the transaction
  • We were still within the timeframe (120 days) to dispute the transaction with Dreamworld Travel

We, therefore, contacted our bank, Barclays, and got the process underway to dispute the transaction.  The process of disputing the transaction from Italy, including filling in the form and providing them with the evidence was not totally straightforward and had its own stress.

After going through all of that, we finally decided to book our flight with Cathay Pacific directly.  We had always found their customer service fantastic, and we loved their policies, including baggage allowances.  However, we still had a problem…

Even after booking our flight with Cathay Pacific directly, the flight from London Heathrow to Brisbane was cancelled nearly every month (it would always be cancelled at least a month before the flight).  Re-booking onto another flight was easy enough now – Cathay Pacific’s customer service was second to none; a very kind and pleasant customer service representative would always answer your call within about 30 seconds on being on hold on their switchboard.  The real question now became…

Will we ever be able to fly?  If so, when?  Which airline should we choose?  Is Cathay Pacific ever able to fly into Brisbane?  Which flights are actually making it to Brisbane without getting cancelled?

All these questions are answered on this website, and many more, so enjoy!

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