How to get a kulula.com or BA refund from your bank or Comair

With tens or possibly hundreds of thousands of ticketholders affected by the pending liquidation of Comair, there are a number of options to request and receive a refund, depending on which method you used to book.

British Airways ticketholders are able to rely on the Booking with Confidence policy; it is assumed these bookings roll over to Airlink, which already operates under a codeshare agreement with the UK carrier. This is described as a ‘unilateral interline’ agreement.

Arguably the most-affected group of would-be passengers are those who booked using their discounted annual flight allocation via Discovery Vitality. Forward bookings would surely be in the tens of thousands of seats.

Discovery announced on Thursday that it would refund any member who is a Discovery Bank client and who had booked a flight departing from June 1 onwards. These refunds would’ve been processed by close of business on Friday. (Any international flight, car hire or accommodation bookings made via the Vitality login on Kulula’s website would be unaffected.)

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“Comair has been one of Vitality’s longest standing partners, and we are saddened by the news. It is devastating for Comair’s passengers, staff and partners, as well as for the travel sector,” said CEO of Discovery Vitality Dinesh Govender.

The financial services provider says passengers are able to make alternative travel arrangements and new discounted travel bookings with any of its travel partners, including local flights with FlySafair, Airlink and Lift. Discovery Bank clients are able to make these bookings on the Vitality Travel platform through the Discovery Bank website.

The group says while it is “working on alternative solutions for Vitality members who are not Discovery Bank clients, affected Vitality members who booked a discounted flight can open a Discovery Bank account before 30 June 2022 in order to facilitate an immediate refund and make bookings on the Vitality Travel platform”. Therefore, anyone who opens a Discovery Bank account (even a no-fee savings account) will receive their refund.

However, there are other options, subject to how the booking was made and paid for.

FNB

FNB will also have a larger-than-normal amount of affected customers because of its eBucks Travel booking platform. In hindsight, the bank made a very smart move a number of years ago to divorce itself from the ‘exclusive’ discount arrangement it had with Comair.

It says “customers who purchased British Airways and Kulula flight tickets using the FNB and RMB Private Bank apps, eBucks.com, or our eBucks Travel desk will be assisted through a dedicated refund process”.

Those who bought tickets from the airlines or a travel agent are able to “lodge a dispute through the SecureChat feature on the FNB and RMB Private Bank apps”.

“To avoid any delays in processing a refund, we encourage our customers to immediately upload a copy of their flight booking confirmation. Customers can chat to a SecureChat agent for further assistance.”

FNB says “customers who paid for flight tickets using third-party instant EFT services are advised to lodge a dispute directly with the airlines as instant EFT payments cannot be reversed via the Bank”.

Absa

An Absa spokesperson says it “takes note of events surrounding the grounding of Comair flights and comments emanating from the company’s business rescue practitioners”.

“Given the fluid nature of events, we still encourage impacted customers to first engage the airline to ascertain their options.

“If this is unsuccessful, Absa customers who booked Comair tickets via their cards can approach us (or via email: disputes@absa.co.za) to assist with the chargeback process. As with all chargeback requests, each matter is evaluated in line with the VISA and MasterCard chargeback rules.

“In addition, BA Club members who booked British Airways flights (via Comair) are automatically protected against any losses through the airline’s Booking with Confidence Policy.”

Nedbank

Nedbank says “clients who were not able to fly and purchased tickets using a payment card, branded with a Visa, MasterCard or an American Express logo, may contact their bank to log a dispute”.

“Clients have the right to an immediate chargeback following the granting of the liquidation order. Nedbank clients can contact the Nedbank Contact Centre 0860 555 111 or visit their nearest branch to lodge the dispute.”

Standard Bank

Standard Bank says: “Chargeback rules apply. In the ordinary course of business, the customer would have to wait until the day of service and would have a right after that if the service was not provided.

“In this case of a liquidation, the customer has the immediate right to chargeback on granting of the liquidation order. Until then they can only charge back on/post the date of service.”

Liquidation order not yet granted

It must be noted that the liquidation order has not yet been granted, however many financial services providers are already actioning refunds.

If you did not pay by card and are not covered by the above provisions, the business rescue practitioners of Comair noted last week that “customers who held bookings or were owed refunds will now become creditors of the company”.

The process will be detailed once the liquidation order is granted. This will be a lengthy and fraught one.

In the original liquidation scenario (as at 30 April 2020), creditors would’ve received 33c in the rand. This included those passengers with an “unutilised ticket liability”.

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