ACCC Forces Etihad to Refund Cancelled Flights

ACCC Forces Etihad to Refund Cancelled FlightsEtihad will now offer full refunds to all passengers that purchased tickets in Australia, for flights that were cancelled by the airline due to COVID-19.

It comes after the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) engaged with Etihad Airways over concerns passengers were being illegally denied refunds for flights booked in Australia that did not operate. Indeed, multiple Australian Frequent Flyer members reported issues with getting refunds on Australian Frequent Flyer’s Etihad forum.

In fairness to Etihad, many other airlines have also made it difficult for passengers to get refunds for cancelled flights. The ACCC also shamed Qantas last month for pressuring customers to accept a flight credit, even when they would have been entitled to a refund.

Section 9.2 of Etihad’s Conditions of Carriage states that consumers are entitled to a refund of the unused portion of their airfare if Etihad cancels their flight or fails to “operate a flight reasonably according to the schedule”. The customer may also request to be flown on the next available Etihad Airways service, or with another airline, to their final destination.

The ACCC alleges that Etihad did not adequately inform customers of their right to a refund when it released its COVID-19 rebooking policy on 26 March 2020. The airline’s original policy from earlier in March allowed for refunds in the case of cancelled flights or passengers being prohibited from travelling by local authorities. But by late March, Etihad had changed its tune and was only offering date changes or a travel credit.

Etihad suspended all flights to Australia (and everywhere else) on 23 March 2020 due to border closures and transit bans in the United Arab Emirates.

On 3 June, around the same time that Etihad resumed limited flights between Abu Dhabi and Australia, the airline updated its rebooking policy again. At this time, refunds were once again offered for cancelled flights scheduled to depart from Australia.

After being reprimanded by the ACCC, Etihad further revised its policy this week so that refunds are offered on all tickets booked in Australia – regardless of where the flight was scheduled to depart from.

Etihad was already offering refunds for cancelled flights departing from other regions where local laws require this, including the United States and European Union.

“We are pleased that Etihad is fulfilling its obligations under its conditions of carriage by offering refunds to thousands of Australian customers with cancelled flights,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“Etihad’s revised policy, and its decision to also offer refunds to consumers who weren’t previously advised of their right to a refund, should serve as a model for other airlines.”

“The protections of the Australian Consumer Law, which extend to all corporations carrying on business in Australia, prohibit making false or misleading representations about a consumer’s right to a refund, including their contractual refund rights,” Mr Sims said.

Etihad customers being contacted

Etihad is now contacting affected customers (or their travel agents) to inform them of their right to a refund. This is expected to be completed by 7 August 2020. Customers that previously accepted an Etihad travel credit are also entitled to a full refund.

Some AFF members have already received notification that their refunds are (finally) being processed.

I got an email a couple of days ago, after several requests, including a C/C chargeback (that was processed and then reversed) – a quick call and my money is on the way (45 business days!!)

If you booked with a travel agent, remember that you will need to arrange a refund through them.

Etihad is currently operating only 3 scheduled flights per week to Australia, from Abu Dhabi to Sydney. Under the current restrictions, only 30 passengers are allowed on inbound flights into Sydney.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Etihad to give full refunds for cancelled flights bought in Australia

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]