Cruise

Scenic class action grows as more passengers join

Hannah Edensor

The battle between Scenic and its disgruntled customers has gathered momentum, with hundreds of Aussie travellers now formally involved.

It was only recently that Travel Weekly reported on the news that more than 120 passengers affected by extensive flooding in Europe during April and May 2013 were planning to sue Scenic for their troubles.

Now, according to CHOICE, a further 80 to 90 passengers have expressed their intention to also seek compensation and/or damages for inconvenience, distress and disappointment, and the failure to provide them with the holiday they paid for.

Extensive flooding on the Rhine, Saone, Rhone and Danube rivers between April and May 2013 resulted in affected tours, as some cruise ships were unable to operate on the unusually high water levels.

Defending the claim, Scenic’s chief operating officer, Damien Thomas had told Travel Weekly that the “extreme” weather conditions were unable to be predicted, and that these were “extreme circumstances”,  with this level of flooding “only occurring every 100 years.”

But Somerville Legal has said court documents reveal that up to 1730 possible claimants from 16 separate cruises are entitled to be a part of the class action in the NSW Supreme Court.

The law firm, according to CHOICE, will contact all remaining passengers who travelled with Scenic in Europe between May 10 and June 14 2013, with the legal action initiated after founding partner Tim Somerville was one of the affected passengers on a cruise in southern France.

The claim states Scenic breached Australian Consumer Law by failing to delay or cancel the cruises, offer alternative tours or warn of expected delays, Fairfax reported.

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According to the Somerville Legal website, a number of Aussies paid anywhere up to $26,000 for their cruise holidays, but claim they spent hours each day driving on “substandard” coaches, and staying in “low-budget hotels” during the alternative arrangements.

Somerville Legal’s Benjamin Hemsworth said some rival cruise operators cancelled itineraries and refunded passengers their money, according to CHOICE.

“Even when Scenic knew that river cruises were likely to be disrupted by flooding, they allowed passengers to travel all the way from Australia without giving them any information about the likely disruptions,” Hemsworth said.

But Scenic’s chief operating officer maintains the conditions were unprecedented, and that the passengers always come first.

“The quality of the guest experience is always our top priority and we always do our utmost to limit the impact on their holiday,” Thomas said.

“We always respond as best we can in these challenging circumstances, and aim to provide the highest quality service and travel experience at all times including when a change to an itinerary is necessary due to prevailing weather or river conditions.”

Many of the Scenic cruise passengers have already claimed up to $2500 in consumer tribunals, however are not prohibited from joining the class action.

According to CHOICE, the case returns to court in July and a full hearing will take place in April 2016.

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