The no-frills flight that cost £7,400

Trail Of The Unexpected
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The Independent Travel

I Missed the 8.55am flight from Glasgow to London by minutes. I cursed, as I knew I'd have to buy a ticket over the counter that would be more expensive. I did not know the ticket from "Go the Low cost Airline" would – bar my house – turn out to be the most expensive purchase I ever made.

The nightmare began when I handed my debit card to the Go sales staff. After 10 minutes' delay I asked what was going on. "There is a decimal point problem with your card," one said. It turned out they had charged me £7,400 for a ticket that cost £74.00.

I was dumbstruck, but convinced this stupid error could be sorted out in minutes. I assumed they would cancel the transaction and start again. Second mistake. The sales staff categorically assured me they had not processed the transaction and that only a figure of £74 would show up on my current account.

When I got off the plane in London, I decided to check. The personal banker at Barclays said nothing but just turned the screen towards me. I blanched. The "Low Cost" airline had debited £7,400. They had only succeeded in taking so much money because two weeks before I had been paid for completing a book.

I still thought matters could be straightened out. I assumed once I informed the bank that this transaction was not authorised and that I had not signed for it, they could block it. Third mistake. My bank could, or would, not.

The next few days saw a round of telephone calls to Go and Barclays that involved both companies shunting me from one call centre to another. When I demanded to speak to the manager at Barclays in Islington I was transferred to customer services in Richmond, and so it went on. Go kept insisting it had credited my account by £7,326 and Barclays insisted that the sum had not shown up in my account.

On Monday, four days after my disastrous purchase, my current account registered Go's credit. For the best part of a week that company had turned my life upside down. For that Go offered me one free return ticket. The airline refused to compensate me further for emptying out my bank account for four days, two days lost work as a freelance journalist and countless hours spent on the phone.

I learned the hard way what a mistake it is to hand your debit card to a travel company. If I had paid on a credit card, I could have challenged the bill. Once Go had that card I was defenceless and dependent for the return of my money on its goodwill. That was not much in evidence. Go's customer relations behaved throughout as if I was quarrelling over a missing fiver, not my entire savings. I wrote to Go's chief executive, Barbara Cassani, demanding an apology. I never got an answer.

A spokesperson for Go told 'The Independent': "Go sincerely apologises for the error made when debiting Mr Tanner's credit card. The member of staff immediately corrected the error and our customer service team did everything to ensure the card was credited as soon as possible.

"We have assured Mr Tanner that we will reimburse any bank charges incurred as a result of the error. By way of apology, we have refunded both the cost of the flight taken and his unused flight. We have also offered Mr Tanner two complimentary flights to anywhere on the Go network and are sure he will have a much smoother experience next time."

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