A number of agents have reported that their clients have not received refunds from Guardian Assist for repatriation flights that departed weeks ago and that the company has also not paid out the referral commissions that they promised to agents.
Guardian Assist Medical Solutions has traditionally operated as a medical evacuation firm but got involved in repatriation flights during lockdown, offering agents a R1 000 referral commission for any bookings made with them.
Owner of JMC Travel, Jenny Kutlu, told Travel News that she was still waiting for referral commission to be paid for 16 passengers that she had booked on repatriation flights with Guardian Assist. She explained that the owner of Guardian Assist had told her it was not paying commission due to an audit that was taking place following a number of credit card reversals from clients who had travelled with them and then reversed their payments after landing.
“I can’t understand how this situation could have arisen as banks are required to correspond with suppliers and clarify that a service was not provided before processing a credit card reversal. Banks do not just reverse payments willy-nilly,” said Jenny.
Linda Wattrus, owner manager of XL HalloWorld Travel, and Holly Pereira, part owner of Checkout Travel, also said they were waiting for commission payments from Guardian Assist. Both had emailed the company to chase the commission but had never heard back.
Another ITC from a large consortium, who did not wish to be named, said her six clients had been initially asked to pay in R38 000 for their flights to New Zealand and were later told that the price had been reduced to R34 500. However, the clients had still not received their refunds (over R20 000 is owed to one family) and the agent commission had also not been paid.
Travel News tracked down owner of Guardian Assist, JP van Tonder, who said he was surprised that agents had commented that they were struggling to reach Guardian Assist as he had personally responded to every email query received.
He explained that the New Zealand repatriation flight, which had been organised together with #LISA group and All About Travel, had run at a loss due to last-minute changes to rules on who could fly.
“As a team we decided to carry the loss between us and continue with the flight but after the passengers had travelled we discovered that there was a far greater deficit than expected. This was because passengers had reversed their credit card payments after they had flown with us, which is fraud. On discovering the reversals, we immediately stopped organising flights and called for an audit to investigate the leakage of funds. We have asked agents to hold on while we finalise this process in order to ensure that we were not processing refunds or paying out commission for bookings where payments were reversed,” said JP.
“The audit is now being finalised and I have had sight of the unsigned copy. We will start paying commission next week and processing the refunds on the remaining five or six clients waiting for these,” added JP when Travel News spoke to him on Friday, October 9.
He said he had been involved in medical repatriation for many years and got involved in repatriation by wanting to help out family members who had been stranded during lockdown.
“We really regret getting involved in this and will not be operating any repatriation flights going forward, ” said JP.