Airlines Must Be More Generous with Credit VouchersIf you had a flight booked in the coming months, there’s a good chance it’s been cancelled as airlines globally cut flights in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Instead of just giving you a refund, most airlines would like you to accept a credit voucher for the value of your ticket, to use towards a future booking. From the airline’s point of view, this makes perfect sense. It stops the airline from having to refund money to passengers at a time of negative cash flow. It also locks customers in to using the airline again when things return to normal.

But, with limited exceptions, airlines are legally obliged to refund your money if your flight is cancelled and you’re not given a suitable alternative. Virgin Australia seems to disagree with this, saying that an exception may apply if flights are cancelled due to government restrictions. Virgin is currently offering customers only the ability to rebook or cancel for a credit voucher without penalty. But we would argue that airlines are still free to operate flights as they wish despite the current travel restrictions; most of the current cancellations are due to a lack of demand.

Australian Consumer Law continues to apply, so if you want a refund for a cancelled flight, you should be entitled to one!

Why airlines need to be more generous with their vouchers

At the moment, some airlines are denying refunds for cancelled flights, pretending that credit vouchers are the only option, or changing their IT systems to make it near-impossible to access a refund.

Instead of trying to trick or coerce customers into accepting a voucher, airlines should be making their credit vouchers attractive enough that customers want to accept them.

Currently, many airlines’ vouchers have limited validity. And customers cannot be sure they’ll get value from their vouchers as airfares could increase in the future. (There’s also a small risk that the airline could go out of business before you’re able to use the voucher.)

For example, Jetstar credit vouchers can only be used within six months. That’s a terrible policy as nobody knows if things will be back to normal in six months’ time. So, if your Jetstar flight has been cancelled, your best option is to contact the airline to request a refund instead (which Jetstar will provide for cancelled flights, if you ask).

Luckily, some airlines have now realised how short-sighted it is to offer inflexible and unattractive vouchers when customers have the option of a full refund instead. These airlines have already made changes to their credit vouchers to make them more attractive. For example, Aer Lingus is now adding 10% in value to all credit vouchers and making them valid for five years. Qatar Airways is also increasing the value of vouchers by 10%. Meanwhile, Lufthansa Group airlines are giving a €50 discount when passengers make a new booking with their voucher.

It’s in both the customers’ and the airlines’ interest to offer vouchers with long-term validity and extra value. Why should customers agree to give airlines what is effectively an interest-free loan, when there’s nothing in it for them?

Qantas extends validity of credit vouchers, but refunds hard to get

If your Qantas flight is still operating, but you no longer wish to travel, you have the option to cancel your booking and convert the value of the ticket to a credit voucher without penalty.

If your flight was cancelled by Qantas, the airline will automatically convert your booking into a credit voucher. In this instance, you are also entitled to a full refund. But you’ll have to proactively request this. You may be able to do so online after your booking has been converted to credit, but if not, you’ll need to contact the airline.

Sadly, Qantas is even making it difficult for customers with refundable, fully flexible bookings to get a refund. Several AFF members have complained that they were only able to cancel for a credit voucher online – and not a refund – despite holding Flex tickets.

Qantas only gives you the option to cancel for a credit voucher - not a refund - on its website.
Qantas only gives you the option to cancel for a credit voucher – not a refund – on its website.

To be clear, you are entitled to a refund for cancelled flights if you want one. If you’re unable to get a refund online, you’ll need to call or message Qantas directly (or, your travel agent if you booked with a third party) as the ability to request a refund appears to have been removed from the Qantas website. The problem with this is that the Qantas call centre is currently overwhelmed with requests. So unless you have top-tier Qantas status or call during the middle of the night, you can expect to wait on hold for hours. (Perhaps this is precisely the point…)

The good news is that Qantas has now extended the validity of credit vouchers until December 2021. Although Qantas is not offering to increase the value of your voucher – and you’ll have to spend at least the value of your voucher on the new flights – this at least gives most people a realistic opportunity to use their vouchers in the future. So, if you think you’ll fly with Qantas again once the travel restrictions are lifted, you at least don’t have much to lose by accepting the credit voucher.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Qantas booking cancellation (under covid19)

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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]

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Melanie

What about international airlines? EG we have flights with Singapore Air. I’m guessing Aust law doesn’t apply to them?

AgentGerko

Do not commend Lufthansa for their Bonus EUR50 policy. Virtually everyone who has cancelled had booked to visit Europe during the warm months of Apr – Aug. The LH credit requires passengers to depart Aust by 31 Dec 2020, meaning people will have to visit Europe during the cold months in order to use the voucher. This is very unfair as few people want to visit Europe in the middle of winter.

Tracey Morris

Do you know if a domestic flight booked with Virgin points will have the points & taxes refunded in full if cancelled?

David Laycock

We were going to Norfolk island in late May early June. The local travel agency has deferred the final payment until things straighten out, as we have not cancelled, but only deferred. However they say Air NZ would be the problem as they see it as a cancelled flight booking. Maybe the recent decisions by government may change their minds???????

David Laycock

We have just been notified that the government ban on flights into NI for the purpose of other than essential reasons is until 30th June, so we are unable to go as booked. However AirNZ have given full credit (subject to any increase in fares), to use when this dies down up until March 2021.!!!

Alan Lowe

I cancelled a flight from Isa to Mel at the Brisbane airport Qantas sales counter, told I would get a credit voucher via email in 48 hrs.
Not got after 1 week, can’t get get through on phone.
Need to use voucher to return back home, (I’m a remote health worker).
How can I contact them from a remote community??

Denis Sletcher

Excellent article Matt. I am trying to get a refund from singapore and emirates. i am not interested in their voucher option. This needs to be flagged with the ACCC to put pressure on these airlines. If they don’t front up, they will do irreparable harm to their brand in the long term !

Mel

Virgin sent me an email saying my points & pay flights would be refunded as points and the pay portion returned to my card. Yet they refunded the pay portion as points instead. Have now had to issue a complaint.

Anne Roberts

Thanks for the helpful insights, I bought a RTW Business class ticket with Lufthansa (the ticket also uses Qantas and Singapore Airlines) leaving BNE on Oct 1. I booked it to visit my son in UK before he moves to who-knows-where.. The travel agent said they will not look into it until September. This concerns me. Is it reasonable? Do you have any idea what my rights will be if my purpose for travel expires, being my son leaving UK after October but before it’s safe for me to travel & utilize a credit voucher? Thanks again for all the… Read more »

Michael Hollander

Hi. Re: Jetstar vouchers, my reading of the conditons is that they can only be booked within 6 months for a flight within 12 months of that booking date.

Thomas Moore

Jetstar are refusing to issue me a refund of our families trip to Japan. Heartless and short sighted decision.

Jennifer Cook

Thomas, try again and use a different channel. I got a refund on the second attempt through FB messenger from Jetstar, and I had the most restrictive fare. Wait until the flight is cancelled by them, don’t cancel preemptively, and quote Australian Consumer Law in your message requesting a refund

Ian

What happens if you have flights booked on an airline which goes bust either IATA or non IATA

Blaz

What about a policy where they simply give you the same ticket but at a later date of your choosing with a five year validity? This would not affect the airlines cash flow, and also give travellers farer options, especially if they purchased a bargain priced flight. I purchased a cheap Jetstar flight to Bali for my wife and myself for late May which was of course cancelled, and my only options were converting it to a voucher (with a limited time validity) which I could be used with all the restrictions, or get my money back ( needless to… Read more »

Blaz

Does anyone know what the situation is generally for international tickets purchased with points? I know that with Qantas at least, you forfeit a nominal number of points, but if the flight is cancelled? The complexity comes where you may use Qantas points but with other carriers such as Cathay Pacific.

Jennifer Cook

I got a full points refund from Qantas with codeshare flights.

Blaz

Thanks…however, my flights are not until 20th July , so technically the flights haven’t been cancelled…was this the case for you, or was your flight already cancelled?

ingrid

Currently I have 3 separate credit vouchers from cancelling QANTAS flights. It would be great if airlines would combine multiple travel vouchers into a single voucher, and booking further trips simply comes off the one amount…

James Peterkin

I asked JQ for a refund, as per your article, and was told that a vouchet was the only option. When it came, seats and luggage were not fully refunded, with no explanation.

Adam

Great post. I’m probably not alone in expecting a cash refund for flights paid with cash! Seems reasonable, airlines should take note that how they mistreat customers in these circumstances beyond our control definitely impacts any further prospects of business. So I’m still awaiting a response from Easyjet AMS-GVA (case submitted), offered indefinite rebooking with SWISS + 50CHF bonus (I might accept this) and 2 flights with SAS with unacceptably restrictive rebooking option and refusal to refund unless they cancel. Air Asia offer account credit thru to 2021 which we’ll accept since there’s many options out of Perth to use… Read more »

Patricia Penry

If I have been promised a voucher from Jetstar is it too late to get it changed to a credit?

Harry

I bought 9 Premium economy ticket with virgin to Bali in January for November. I was told that I needed to use the tickets within 12 months of the purchase date if I cancel because of the virus lingering. So if Government does not have a DFAT Restriction to Indonesia, does it seem though I have to take those tickets before my January anniversary date or I lose my money?

John O

It’s even more complicated if you used frequent flyer points! I used QF points to buy sectors on Jetstar, WestJet and American Airlines. Then I used those airlines reservations systems to buy specific seats as QF require. When attempting to take advantage of the new QF Coronavirus cancellation rules for travel commencing through end of July I find that I am bound by the rules applied by the other airlines which are very restrictive. I also suffer a substantial QF points cancellation penalty AND lose several hundred dollars in prepaid seats. For Emirates it’s even more draconian – I used… Read more »

Mark Dickson

I have a credit voucher with Jetstar I have to use by September 2020 , this is a joke and totally unacceptable!

Michael Hollander

Mark, as per my post above, I believe you have to use your voucher within 6 months. This doesn’t mean you have to fly within 6 months. You can book a flight using the voucher by September 2020, for a flight within 12 months of the booking date.

z28

Airline computer systems are playing havoc as well so beware: I had a flight from Perth to Sydney which I like to cancel. Since part payment was gift voucher, I couldn’t do it online. Calling them is as painful as …. After more than 2 hours each time (twice) I gave up. Anyway, I kept checking my account and two days before the flight, 2 more flights appeared: Perth-Melbourne the day before and Mel-Syd the day after. Obviously the original flight had been cancelled and rescheduled but I got no notification from them. Long story short, I finally submitted a… Read more »

Kevin Marshall

We have a Cathay Pacific booking for July which we wish to cancel we have travel insurance are we likely to get a refund, rather than a credit

Beth Fabre

We were able to get a refund from Jetstar but unfortunately our travel insurance company will not give us a credit (we do not want a refund only a credit) for when we are able to travel again.

Pieter Skinner

Thai Airways cancelled our flight from Siem Reap to Bangkok. The tickets cost us USD$115.64 and they will only refund us USD$47.64!!! All because in our ticket structure that WE can’t get a refund or make changes!! BUT THEY CANCELLED THE FLIGHT!!! Airlines want their cake and they want to eat it too!! This is simply ludicrous and outrageous!! I bought the tickets online here in Australia and thought I would be covered as Thai has cancelled the flight!!!

Sandra Smith

I booked 2 flights from Perth to Detroit for September 2020 one via Skidoo and 1 via Fly365, who have since gone bust but luckily after my flight was confirmed and paid to Virgin Australia.
If Virgin Australia goes under how can I get my money or voucher, obviously I can’t go to FLY365. Both flights are confirmed and tickets issued on my Virgin Frequent Flyer account.

Claire

Anyone trying to contact Virgin ? I got straight through to the call centre at approx 4.15pm today. Arranged a refund for Premium Economy tix – MEL LAX return. Unfortunately, still had to lose $400.00 per ticket cancellation fee but wasn’t comfortable leaving such a large sum in their Travel Bank.

JDoug

We are all in this together and we need the airlines to survive too. If we could afford to purchase flights for holidays we are some of the luckiest people of the world. We all have to give a bit . And work together

Condorflier

Smart move extending the status period. But we have asked for our money back on our UK return tickets, not credit notes. Will see how quickly Qantas refund our money before we rebook on Qantas, mindful there are super deals everywhere

Mark

If you book a ticket through a travel agent and you take the option to cancel and get a credit vouchre in your name can you get the vouchre from the agent. i.e is it mine because i paid for the ticket

Roger Coles

Do you know where Kris members stand as far as the time allowed to use your points? I believe its 3 years but with the chaos to international flights has that been extended?

Sue

Vietnam airline are refusing to refund my families 5 tickets (7.5K) from Sydney to Ho Chi Minh with internal connections for travel in April and instead only offering a credit until 31 December 2020. I wish it was as simple as US law – any flight flying to or from the US must give a refund if they cancel the flight. Would be nice if that applied to carriers flying here.