Cruise

Scenic to “appeal court decision” over class action payout

Hannah Edensor

Scenic could be forced to pay up to $16 million in damages and fares to customers in a massive class action case.

More than 1200 travellers booked on luxury Scenic cruises were served up a very different holiday when extensive rainfall and mass flooding in France and Germany in 2013 caused significant river risings.

The consequence of the flooding meant river cruises were unable to navigate the torrential waters as per usual. However Scenic didn’t cancel the trips, as many other operators did, but rather operated tours via buses instead.

In the NSW Supreme Court yesterday, Justice Peter Garling found Scenic breached the Australian consumer law, per ABC, by not informing passengers about the severe weather disruptions.

He said the tour company “played down the significance of what was occurring on the rivers in Europe”.

He added that by downplaying the disruptions, Scenic concealed the company’s “internal position that it would offer a full refund for guests on the identified cruises if requested”.

Justic Garling said that Scenic should have given customers the option to postpone or cancel their trip, per ABC.

“Scenic had a continuing obligation to provide intending passengers (at least those who had made bookings which had been accepted) with information about events, or the consequences of events, which may have impacted…upon the passenger’s ability to travel in accordance with the itinerary and to enjoy the luxury cruise experience which Scenic had promised.”

But Scenic is disputing the decision, which has seen David Moore lead 1265 participants in the class action, resulting in Moore successfully awarded $13,000.

Most passengers in the class action will, per ABC, be entitled to a refund, damages and interest, after booking what was promised to be a “once in a lifetime luxury river cruise”, which could amount to as much as $16 million.

A Scenic spokesperson told Travel Weekly, “It is important that we review the judgment in detail before making specific comment on the decision.

“Scenic will be appealing the decision handed down yesterday.  We note there have been reports of Scenic’s estimated liability for the payout to the class. These estimations are premature and in any event it is important to note that not all cruises were affected in the same way.

“A blanket estimate cannot be drawn from Mr Moore’s individual award.”

In addition to this, Scenic’s spokesperson added, “I can confirm it has always been Scenic’s practice to deliver itineraries as close to schedule as possible without compromising on safety or comfort.

“To put some context around the matter, despite the extraordinary weather conditions in Europe in early 2013, less than five per cent of Scenic cruises in the past four years resulted in any itinerary change.

“During that time we welcomed around 200,000 guests across more than 8,300 cruise days, the vast majority of which were unaffected.

“But while the prospect of schedule interruptions is statistically very low, we take nothing for granted and have continued to invest in our river cruising product.”

Per ABC, Scenic Tours claimed each of the members in the class action signed a contract in which they accepted its terms and conditions.

The contract stated, “Cruise itineraries may be varied due to high or low water levels, flooding…[and] circumstances beyond our control”.

“We may substitute (at the nearest possible standard) another vessel or motorcoach for all or part of the itinerary and also provide alternative accommodation, where necessary.

“Where we make a variation to the itinerary, we are not liable to you for such variations.”

Per ABC, the company was ordered to pay costs, which will be determined at a later date.

Solicitor Ben Hemsworth told the courts, “It’s a group of ordinary Australians who paid a lot of money thinking they were going to get a luxury cruise.

“They didn’t get that, they feel they have been wronged and today they were vindicated by the court.

“They turned up expecting a luxury cruise going from port to port and dining on that cruise liner and they ended up being out on buses and taken to places they were not expecting.

“A lot of the passengers were elderly and wanting to stay in the one place, so having to be moved around by bus was distressing to them.”

Per ABC, the members of the class action argued that Scenic “should have known that the rising river levels would, or were likely to, substantially disrupt, for a period of six weeks thereafter, the enjoyment of passengers scheduled to embark upon river cruises”.

“The plaintiff and group members contend that such knowledge ought to have been known to the defendant as reasonable tour operators conducting business in Europe, being river cruises along European rivers,” the statement of claim said.

The statement said they all suffered loss or damage including the price of the tour, a significant drop in value for the services they were actually delivered, and a lack of opportunity to consider any proposed alternative or receive a refund.

Per SMHthe Scenic ship Moore was on was forced to dock 110 kilometres from Cologne, with passengers transported into town by coach, not returning to the ship until after midnight.

On the fourth day, instead of sailing along the Rhine, they remained docked on the Moselle River in Koblenz, while the fifth day saw passengers take a five-hour round coach into Munich, where they went on a one-hour sightseeing tour by coach, and upon return, told they had to abandon their ship.

The following day was spent on a bus, per SMH, and the rest of the tour resulted in many missed destinations due to docking problems, with long days spent on coaches.

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Travel Agents

Big Fat Agent Wrap

by Vanessa Bussoletti

It doesn’t get more jam-packed than this, readers. Unless you count our jam sandwich because that’s overflowing all over our desk.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

“We’re all getting robbed”: Vic tourism hit by scam

by Hannah Edensor

At least nine Victorian tourist attractions have been hit by a credit card scam. We too were busted for buying clothes under our boss’s name but only to avoid buyers shame in the office.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

What can you actually take from hotel rooms?

We could tell you this was an exclusive insight into what you can get away with stealing from hotels, but we’d be lying. We nicked it off an online forum.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

At last, Qantas inflight Wi-Fi takes off

by Hannah Edensor

As 56% of travellers get stoked about Qantas’ inflight Wi-Fi, our concern lies with the other 44% who clearly hate looking at cats on YouTube.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Travel warnings for Gallipoli after terror threats

by Hannah Edensor

New updates on Smart Traveller have upgraded warnings for Turkey with news Anzac Day commemorations could be a target of terror attacks.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

Flavour of the Week

Find out who won new roles & who fell on their swords in this week’s Flavour of the Week. Yes, we added that sword bit for effect.

Share

CommentComments

Cruise

Cruising for young travellers is finally here

This first of its kind cruise brand had us at ‘Wine & Paint Classes’ because it combines two of our favourite things. Well, one, we hate painting.

Share

CommentComments

Technology

52% of travellers swayed by Facebook photos: study

All of our Facebook friends’ photos inspired us to travel. And by ‘friends’ we mean the public profiles we stalk because we only have 4 friends.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

Is your boss the Executive of the Year?

We tried to nominate ourselves for this award, but apparently ignoring the boss and pretending to be your own boss doesn’t actually make you CEO.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

Final week of LAX agent incentive kicks off

We’re re-running this again from Monday (minus the typos). You get déjà vu & we do less work. A win-win, we say.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

A world of special Sunshine Coast Deals

by Vanessa Bussoletti

Visit Sunshine Coast has partnered with Escape Travel to launch a major new campaign offering a wide range of activities […]

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

Big Fat Hotel Wrap

by Vanessa Bussoletti

If you read one thing today make sure it’s Travel Weekly’s hotel wrap. Actually, your medication instructions and train timetable probably take priority.

Share

CommentComments