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Beware: Coastal Air

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Last summer I purchased a ticket on Tanzania’s Coastal Air. After purchasing the ticket I noticed in the terms sent after buying the ticket that there was a 15 kg total baggage limit. This limitation was not, as far as I could tell, mentioned anywhere before the ticket was purchased. After weighing my bags I found that I was about two kg over the limit due to the camping gear that I was bringing along. I searched the travel forums to find whether Coastal strictly adhered to this limit and found that in some cases upset passengers were forced by Coastal to leave baggage behind.

I emailed Coast Air’s helpdesk and asked them to cancel my reservation and refund my fare because I could not meet their baggage restriction. I was sent three separate emails confirming my cancellation with an official PDF of the confirmation of cancellation. The third email also indicated I would be issued a refund. I later discovered another odd email was sent from Coastal with the following message:

“Hi you can cancel and you'll get a full refund because the booking is for july,how many kilos do you have?
Because if the charge you if its znz I think its one or two dollars per extra kg”

This was in response to my original request for cancellation and was sent after the three emails which had already confirmed my cancellation.

It has been over a year now and Coastal Air has still not refunded the money I paid for the cancelled tickets. I have made repeated requests to their billing agent, 3GDirectpay. 3GDirectpay’s initial responses led me to believe a refund would be forthcoming but my last several emails have gone unanswered. In frustration I recently sent both 3G and Coastal Air a message indicating I intended to publicize the situation to warn other travelers of their business practices.

I promptly received a message from a Niala at Coastal Air claiming that my original booking had been cancelled in error. The message contained a copy of an email that Niala claimed had been sent to my email address a year earlier granting me permission to exceed the 15 kg baggage limit with PDF’s of the renewed reservation and boarding passes. Interestingly Niala even included the headers for this message with a date of two days after the cancellation emails and my correct email address. Of course I never received this message and never agreed to rebook the flight. I suggested to Niala that we contact my email provider to find if they have logs of the emails sent to my account at that time to determine whether that email had ever been sent to my account but she was unenthusiastic about the idea.

In the last message I received on the matter Niala told me she would discuss the matter with her manager and get back to me the following Monday. Needless to say Monday came and went and I have heard nothing from Niala or Coastal Air since. I did check the spam folder. Perhaps another phantom email was sent?

I have made four separate trips to Africa over the years visiting ten countries and have, with the exception of Coastal Air and 3Gdirectpay, been very happy with the service I have received from African companies. There are several reputable airlines in East Africa that offer flights on the routes flown by Coastal Air. Do you really want to risk your money with a company that conducts business in this manner?

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