A Bankstown travel agent who left his clients stranded at Sydney Airport has been prosecuted in Parramatta Local Court.
Taha Baghdadi failed to make an appearance in court on 24 March and was ordered in his absence to pay $15,555 fines and costs and $14,200 compensation to three of his victims.
The court heard two of those victims were elderly women who paid Mr Baghdadi $4,400 cash at his South Terrace Plaza agency in Bankstown to travel to Greece.
But when the women went to check-in with Emirates Airlines at Sydney Airport in December 2014, they were told their seats booked by Mr Baghdadi had been cancelled as the airline had not received payment.
The women reported the incident to NSW Police the following day.
A third victim paid Mr Baghdadi $9,800 to visit family in Lebanon but when the man returned to the Bankstown business after paying in full, he found the agency had closed.
When Malaysian Airlines was contacted, it confirmed the man’s airline tickets had been cancelled due to non-payment.
Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe said none of Mr Baghdadi’s victims received refunds after their travel plans were botched.
“Under the Australian Consumer Law this is a clear case of a travel agent wrongfully accepting payments and engaging in misleading, deceptive or unconscionable conduct,” Mr Stowe said.
“Consumers can protect themselves from dodgy travel agents in a number of ways, including ensuring the agent they are dealing with belongs to a recognised accreditation scheme such as the Australian Federation of Travel Agents’ Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS)
“Further protection can be achieved by using a credit card rather than cash for large deposits, to take advantage of the charge back facilities many financial institutions offer if something goes wrong.”
More information on accreditation and selecting a travel agent, go to the Australian Consumer Law website www.consumerlaw.gov.au.
To learn more about your consumer rights as a traveller, watch the Pack some peace of mind video on the NSW Fair Trading website.