COVID-19 FAQs

This section provides information about the organisation and management of Student Horizons. The Covid-19 global situation has created an unprecedented set of circumstances for everyone and we understand that like almost every sector of society, there is uncertainty and concern over our present and future. Prior to Covid-19, Student Horizons was a strong, viable business with year-on-year growth in New Zealand and Australia over the last 5 years. We have created this Q&A section of our website to provide parents, students and schools with the answers to our most frequently asked questions.

General

This section provides general information about Student Horizons, who we are, and the impact that Covid-19 has had on our organisation as a whole.

Student Horizons is both a New Zealand and Australian owned and operated organisation focused on creating safe, meaningful overseas touring experiences for young people. The Student Horizons organisation works exclusively with secondary schools in New Zealand and Australia to facilitate the process of organising sport, music and study-based tours, sharing the responsibility around safety. Student Horizons has developed a reputation of doing the very best for the schools they work with and currently deliver between 65-80 overseas school trips each year.

Student Horizons is a respected educational travel provider in New Zealand and Australia, holding significant partnerships with The Association of Boys’ Schools New Zealand (ABSNZ) and the Secondary Schools Principals Association of New Zealand (SPANZ). Jamie Wansey has supported the ABSNZ organisation for the last ten years.

The owners of Student Horizons (Jamie and Brooke Wansey) have also established a charitable entity, named the Foundation of Student Horizons, with a mission to provide disadvantaged youth with an opportunity to travel on an overseas trip whilst at school.

Student Horizons’ clients are secondary schools. The Student Horizons contractual agreement is with the school.

Covid-19 has created a global catastrophe for the travel industry and all travel-related businesses. Whether a small family-run company or a global giant, all are now fighting for survival. Student Horizons took advice and acted swiftly and decisively, initially reducing the staff in our business by 55%. Over the last 6 weeks, our revenue has effectively dried up as schools cancel their current tours and look to pause their future tours until the world resets. In a situation where we have zero revenue, we must continue to make tough decisions and drive further cost out of our business to preserve cash.

We are grateful for the wage subsidy support from both the New Zealand and Australian governments, and this is now the sole source of income for all staff including the owners, Jamie and Brooke Wansey. Reduced wages has led to a reduced operational capacity for the business as the team work fewer hours. Student Horizons will effectively enter a state of semi-hibernation for the next 6 months.

No. Unlike some group travel agents who operate under the umbrella of a larger parent organisation, Student Horizons is made up of two small businesses: Student Horizons New Zealand Ltd (New Zealand owned and operated) and Student Horizons Pty Ltd (Australian owned and operated).

Over the last 5 years Student Horizons annual net profit has been between 1% and 4 % net profit.

Yes. Student Horizons is eligible for and has received the wage subsidy. Our revenue has effectively stopped so we meet the eligibility criteria. We are grateful for the wage subsidy support from both the New Zealand and Australian Governments, and this is now the sole source of income for all staff including the owners, Jamie and Brooke Wansey. This has effectively reduced our operational capacity by 76% from our pre-Covid-19 state. We can confirm that 100% of the wage subsidy is being passed to our staff is not being used for refund purposes.

Travel Insurance

Student Horizons have a longstanding partnership with Cover-More Insurance which allows us to offer an insurance option to all of our groups to be insured through Cover-More for their tour. It is not compulsory to take this insurance option, however, it is a condition of booking a tour with Student Horizons that all groups must travel under a comprehensive group insurance policy. Some schools have existing insurance providers and elect to travel under these school policies instead of Cover-More. We must receive a signed Travel Insurance Indemnity Form from these schools before departure. The travel insurance industry generally views incidents like Covid-19 as a pandemic and therefore most insurers have a policy exclusion around cancellation claims related to Covid-19. There are some exceptions and we encourage you to consult with your insurance provider to understand your policy and the cover you have in place. For groups travelling under the Cover-More policy, there is no cancellation cover for claims related to Covid-19.

Cover-More are regarded as one of the leading travel insurance providers in New Zealand & Australia. Cover-More are the preferred insurance provider for Air New Zealand and Flight Centre and offer a comprehensive insurance package at a competitive rate.

The Cover-More policy does include Cancellation Cover, however any cancellation as a result of Covid-19 is unfortunately a General Exclusion from most policies. If Cancellation had been required for other reasons, then yes, the group would have been able to make a claim.

‘Cancel for Any Reason’ cover is not applicable to Group policies. Individuals are able to apply for this separately and at significant additional cost.

In the event of a postponement, there will be a small increase in the insurance premium due to an increase in “Lead Time”. “Lead Time” is defined as the time period between the policy issued date and the trip start date. The longer this period is, the longer the underwriter is at risk for the insured claiming on the cancellation benefit. Consequently, longer lead time periods provide longer coverage for cancellation and attract higher premiums.

Eg. policy issued today for a departure date next week will be cheaper than a policy (with same trip duration, area and age, trip value) issued today for a departure in 6 months’ time.

If we are amending a group policy, keep in mind the “lead time” is calculated from the original issue date.

We are able to provide supporting documentation for any school making a claim through their own insurance provider and have already done so for a number of schools across New Zealand and Australia.

Insurers work off data that they can measure statistically and can therefore price. Pandemic risk is, as we have just seen, completely unpredictable and therefore unable to be priced. Pandemic, Epidemic or outbreak of a contagious disease/virus are listed as General Exclusion in most travel insurance policies, including that of Cover-More. This means that any cancellations, or amendments to travel made as a result of this Pandemic will not be covered by travel insurance and therefore cannot be claimed. Whilst cancellation (or costs of changing the trip) would not be covered under travel insurance, we can confirm that all students travelling with us, who have taken out the Cover-More insurance package would be covered (as per the policy limits) for any overseas medical expenses incurred as a result of the Coronavirus.

Yes, Cover-More have agreed to refund the policy premiums for April and July 2020 groups who have cancelled. This will form part of the overall refund you will receive from Student Horizons.

Current Tours

If your child is currently booked on an active Student Horizons tour for 2020 or 2021, please refer to your Tour Leader (teacher organising the tour) for the latest updates regarding your specific tour. The options available to booked groups are summarised below.

Option 1 – Carry on as planned

The speed at which the Covid-19 has taken hold of the world has taken everyone by surprise. Trying to predict when the world will return to normal, and when international borders will re-open, is an impossible task. For groups travelling in the Sep 20-July 2021 touring period there may be continued uncertainty for many months on whether these tours can actually go ahead. Given the continued economic uncertainty with parents fearful about job security, we anticipate resistance from parents to continue to invest in pre-planned trips. For those schools looking to “carry on as planned” we will offer a revised payment schedule to the school to push out the next payment to give everyone time to reassess their individual situations and make decisions on whether to proceed.

Option 2 – Cancel

Our normal terms of business state that all monies paid to us are non-refundable if the client cancels their tour or if Student Horizons cancels the tour under force majeure, but we’ve made the decision as a business to temporarily waive those terms for April, June and July 2020 travel and do our best to present options that contractually we are not obligated to do, but morally we most definitely are. For those groups touring in September 2020 and beyond, our normal terms and conditions currently apply. We remain agile and will respond to the market conditions as necessary, but for now, the easement of our terms of business only applies for tours departing in April, June and July 2020. At this point in time, if you were to cancel your tour which falls outside of the April, June and July 2020 travel periods, there would be no refunds on monies paid to date. Regrettably, Cover-More insurance provides no cancellation cover in the event you cancel due to Covid-19. If you have taken your own insurance cover then we urge you to check the policy immediately to ascertain your cancellation situation.

Option 3 – Postpone to 2021/2022

The third option, which is the one that many schools are considering, is to postpone the trip to the end of 2021 or into 2022. This gives time for the world to reset and for international travel to resume, and more time for parents to raise funds for the tour.

When a tour is postponed, there may be associated cancellation and rebooking fees with some of our supply partners. If you were to defer to the same travel period in 2021/2022, we estimate an increase of 5-15% to account for any year on year rate variances and/or supplier amendment fees. Please be reassured we will do everything we can to mitigate these increases.

Option 4 – Credit note

We will provide the school with a credit note to allocate towards a future overseas student group tour booked with Student Horizons. The credit would be put towards the deposit payment of a new tour booking you make with Student Horizons.

We currently still have over 30 active tours in our system. We continue to work individually with each school to postpone their tour and ensure that students do not miss out on the experiences that they have worked so hard for. We are very grateful for the 19 schools and their families that have already postponed their tours to the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, when we all hope the climate for international travel will have returned to some form of normality. For those schools that do not wish to take up our offer of postponement, we are providing those schools with credit notes for the school to use with Student Horizons on future overseas school trips.

If your school has postponed their tour and you no longer wish for your child to travel on the postponed dates, our normal terms and conditions for individual cancellations apply: any deposits paid are forfeited, however, if the school is able to find a replacement student to take your child’s place on the tour, then you will receive a full refund from the school for this “swap.”

We would encourage the school to find a replacement student to fill the vacant place. This allows the family withdrawing to receive a reimbursement from the replacement student within the school. As this is a group booking not an individual booking, there would be no refunds to individuals families pulling out of the tour.

If the full balance has not been paid for a student who withdraws and there is no replacement student, then the trip would need to be recosted for the rest of the group based on the revised number of travelling students. If the full balance has been paid for a student who withdraws, then there would be no need to recost the trip.

Postponements

We have been working with schools to arrive at the best outcome for every group in what are very trying and complicated circumstances. Most schools have enacted a consultation process with their families to ensure that the majority view is represented in their decision to either postpone or cancel a tour. Postponements are, in many cases, the best possible outcome as this keeps the tour alive for students who have worked hard for the experience. A postponement is the most favourable financial outcome as well.

When a tour is postponed, there may be associated cancellation and rebooking fees with our supplier partners. If you were to postpone to the same travel period in 2022, we estimate an increase of approximately 5-15% per paying passenger to account for any year on year rate variances and/or supplier amendment fees. Student Horizons does not charge any additional fees for the time incurred for postponements.

In the event of a postponement, we would work with each school individually to establish a revised payment plan based on the new dates of travel.

If you no longer wish for your child to travel on the postponed dates, our normal terms and conditions for individual cancellations apply: any deposits paid are forfeited, however, if the school is able to find a replacement student to take your child’s place on the tour, then you will receive a full refund from the school for this “swap.”

Refunds / Cancellations

Over the past two months, Student Horizons has been working through the process of cancelling our April and June/July 2020 tours in conjunction with our school clients who do not wish to postpone their tours. The Student Horizons team has been negotiating with hundreds of suppliers across our global network to recover what funds we can for each family.

For those groups touring in September 2020 and beyond, our normal terms and conditions currently apply. We remain agile and will respond to the market conditions as necessary, but for now, the easement of our terms of business only applies for tours departing in April, June and July 2020.

Student Horizons is a well-established business and as such we have numerous confidential supplier contracts and partnerships in place for every tour that Student Horizons plans and iterates. We provide the best possible value to our clients through these robust supplier partnerships. We cannot share our supplier agreements, including our agent pricing and booking terms, outside of our business.

We are endeavouring to go well above and beyond our booking terms and conditions to obtain partial refund payments for clients. We are unable to provide detailed costing breakdowns for each tour.

Our normal terms of business state that all monies paid to us are non-refundable if the client cancels the tour or if Student Horizons cancels the tour under force majeure. We have made the decision as a business to temporarily waive those terms for April, June and July 2020 travel and do our best to present options that contractually we are not obligated to do.

No. Some airlines are providing a credit only. These credits will be passed to the school along with any cash refunds received from other suppliers.

Where airlines are providing a cash refund, many are retaining a portion of the money as a cancellation fee/penalty.

No. As with non-refundable deposits, there are more limitations on using group travel credits than for individual travel bookings. The credit is held on behalf of the school with the airline and cannot be broken into individual credits.

In order to begin the refund process, a school set to depart in the April 2020 or July 2020 tour period must send written notice of their tour cancellation. The Student Horizons team will then enact the recovery of funds by reaching out to the relevant suppliers and negotiating the return of funds for booked travel. Once refunds are received by Student Horizons, we make payment to the school, who then make payment to the families on the tour. These refund payments to the school will occur in instalments as and when money is received from suppliers.

Our commitment to the families is resolute and we will do our utmost to recover as much money for them as possible.

“You, or any member of your party, may cancel your travel arrangements at any time. Written notification from the person who made the booking must be made and the cancellation will be effective from the date it is received at our offices. Since we incur costs in cancelling your travel arrangements, you will lose your non-refundable payments.”

Group bookings are subject to different terms and conditions than individual online or agent travel bookings. Notably, a supplier’s liability for lost revenue is much higher with, for example, a group of 50 students than a family of 4. To offset this risk, many airlines, hotels, transport companies, and tour guides require sizeable and non-refundable deposits as soon as the group booking is made. While some suppliers are easing their terms around non-refundable deposits considering the situation with Covid-19 (like Student Horizons), many have stated that they are unwilling to provide refunds of deposits or balances paid. These funds then become forfeited and make up a portion of the tour cost that is not able to be recovered. As a specialist tour operator, Student Horizons has also paid staff for their time on the tour up to the point the tour was cancelled.

As the world grinds to a halt, we are experiencing increasing delays in communication and refund payments from our suppliers. Even large organisations such as major airlines—who have robust and long-standing policies around cancellations in place—are advising long delays for refunds and amendments. We are seeing with more clarity every day that the process of recovering funds will take time. Most of our suppliers are now advising refunds will be processed to us in a minimum of ten to fourteen weeks, with a portion of our suppliers taking as long as six to eight months. Trying to ascertain how much money we will receive back, and when, is an impossible task. We are all working tirelessly on behalf of our school partners to ensure the funds are received as quickly as possible, however, the process of recovering funds will take some time.

Student Horizons incorporate additional inclusions in the tour package such as tour gear, international sim cards for the teacher-in-charge, and comprehensive tour manuals. The costs for these inclusions are part of the final balance payment that a school makes to Student Horizons. If your school group has made the final payment, then your refund amount will include the money allocated toward these costs. In a few instances, the tour gear may have already been ordered and processed, in which case, Student Horizons will send these items to your school. If your school did not make the final payment for the tour, then the group has not paid for these inclusions.

As of 5th August 2020, Student Horizons has (in total) refunded $1,471,768 in cash refunds and $29,274 in airline credit refunds.

Student Horizons has also issued schools with over $300,000 in Student Horizons credit note refunds.

Please see below extracts from the statement issued by the United States of America Department of Transportation on 12 May 2020. Links to the full statements are listed below for your reference.

1. What rights do passengers have if an airline cancels a flight or makes a significant schedule change? What is a “significant change” or “cancellation” requiring a refund?

As explained in the Department’s Enforcement Notice issued on April 3, 2020, airlines have an obligation to provide a refund to a ticketed passenger when the carrier cancels or significantly changes the passenger’s flight, and the passenger chooses not to accept an alternative offered by the carrier.3 However, neither the term “significant change” nor “cancellation” is defined in regulation or statute. Based on the Aviation Enforcement Office’s review of the refund policies and practices of U.S. and foreign air carriers, airlines define “significant change” and “cancellation” differently when fulfilling their obligation to provide refunds. Because “cancellation” and “significant change” are not defined in the context of ticket refunds, airlines may develop reasonable interpretations of those terms.4 However, the Aviation Enforcement Office expects carriers to honor those reasonable interpretations in implementing their refund obligations and will focus its enforcement actions on instances where a carrier has disregarded the requirement to offer refunds, failed to honor its refund policies, or where it is determined that the carrier’s refund policies or practices are otherwise “unfair or deceptive” within the meaning of 49 U.S.C. § 41712.5

2. What rights do passengers have if they choose not to travel due to safety or health concerns related to the COVID-19 public health emergency?

Passengers who purchase a non-refundable ticket on a flight to, within, or from the United States that is still being operated without a significant change, but would like to change or cancel their reservation, are generally not entitled to a refund or a travel voucher for future use on the airline. This is true even if the passenger wishes to change or cancel due to concerns related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Although not required, many airlines are providing travel credits or vouchers that can be used for future travel for those passengers electing to cancel their travel due to health or safety concerns related to COVID-19. In reviewing refund complaints against airlines, the Department will closely examine any allegation that an airline misled a passenger about the status of a flight to avoid having to offer a refund.

3 Enforcement Notice Regarding Refunds by Carriers Given the Unprecedented Impact of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency on Air Travel (April 3, 2020) at www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/enforcement notice refunds apr 3 2020. See also 14 CFR § 259.5(b)(5), and Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections, 76 Fed. Reg. 23110-01, at 23129 (Apr. 25, 2011).
4 The Aviation Enforcement Office would consider a practice of retroactively applying a new definition of cancellation or significant change that disadvantages passengers who purchased tickets under a more generous cancellation or significant change definition to be unfair and deceptive.
5 Under 49 USC § 41712, the Department is authorized to investigate and decide whether a U.S. air carrier, foreign air carrier, or ticket agent engaged in an unfair or deceptive practice in air transportation or the sale of air transportation. The Department is also authorized to issue orders to stop an unfair or deceptive practice after notice and opportunity for a hearing

 

United States of America – Department of Transport Enforcement Notice – Issued 3 April 2020

United States of America – Department of Transport Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Airline Ticket Refunds – Issued 12 May 2020

Last Updated: 6 August 2020