Flight Cancelled? Australian Consumer Law Still Applies...

If you’ve booked an international flight for travel in April or May, your flight will almost certainly be cancelled. Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia are all grounding international flights from the end of this month – as are many other airlines around the world.

But if your flight has been cancelled, are you entitled to a full refund? It would appear that the answer depends on which airline you booked with…

Each airline has released their own policy regarding the waiving of change and cancellation fees. If your flight is still operating but you have now changed your mind or are unable to travel, most airlines are now allowing you to either change your dates or cancel for a credit voucher without penalty.

However, if your flight is cancelled by the airline, and you are not offered a suitable alternative flight, you may also be entitled to a full refund under Australian Consumer Law. Keep in mind that a refund is different to a credit towards a future flight.

Most airline cancellation policies do not mention the word “refund”. Of course, airlines would like you to accept a credit voucher so they can hold onto your money. (I don’t blame them, either, and you may choose to accept this if you’re planning to travel when things return to normal and you would like to support the airline.)

But if you booked a flight departing from Australia with an Australian airline, Australian Consumer Law continues to apply. In our view, under Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Australian Consumer Law), you should be entitled to a refund for services that are not provided.

Qantas and Jetstar agree, and appear to be offering refunds to passengers who are booked on flights that have been cancelled. However, Virgin Australia argues that it has had to cancel flights due to events beyond its control including government travel restrictions, and that consumers’ rights to a refund may therefore be impacted. As such, Virgin Australia says it is not offering full refunds to passengers unless they booked a flexible ticket.

Here’s a breakdown of each airline’s policy…

Qantas cancellation policy

With Qantas, if you have a booking for travel until 31 May 2020 and your flight is still operating, but you no longer wish to travel, you have the option to receive a credit voucher.

But if your flight is cancelled, we expect that Qantas will offer you the option to change your flights, receive a travel credit or receive a refund. Qantas has not explicitly stated this, however. For flights that were booked with Qantas directly and have been cancelled, the Qantas website currently states:

Please standby and wait to hear from us before changing your booking. We’ll be contacting anyone whose flight has been impacted over the next week to let you know your options.

Virgin Australia cancellation policy

So far, Virgin Australia has cancelled all international flights from 30 March until 14 June 2020.

This is what the Virgin Australia website currently says:

We have announced a temporary suspension of all international services from 30 March 2020 to 14 June 2020. Our priority is on bringing Australians home, and returning visitors back to their point of origin safely, and as quickly as possible. We will be providing all affected guests with a Travel Credit, which you can claim online by completing our Travel Credit request form.

If your booking is for travel up to and including 30 June you can complete the online Travel Credit request form or, if your flight is within 24 hours, please call the Guest Contact Centre.

Your fare type may also provide you with other options. Please refer to our Fare Guide page for more information.

A Virgin Australia spokesperson told Australian Frequent Flyer that for international services which have been temporarily suspended, “We are providing guests with the option to obtain a travel credit if they don’t want to change their booking to a later date. This is for all flights up until 30 June 2020.”

“We have a comprehensive commercial policy in place that is aimed at providing certainty to customers and aligns with the application of the Australian Consumer Law. This policy also ensures that we are providing our impacted guests with flexible booking options for travel that has been disrupted due to COVID-19,” the Virgin spokesperson said.

Virgin says that full refunds are being offered only if the fare type allows this.

In defending its position, Virgin Australia cited recent guidance from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), which says that consumer guarantees may be impacted if travel is cancelled as a result of government travel restrictions.

Jetstar cancellation policy

Here’s what Jetstar has to say about flight cancellations:

International suspensions are listed below in this Travel Alert and dates are subject to change.

Due to the scale of these changes, impacted customers will receive two emails. The first email will advise that your booking may be impacted and the second will provide details about the recovery options available to you. These options will include a credit voucher to the full value of your untraveled Jetstar booking.

We reached out to Jetstar, who told us that as per their standard processes and under Australian Consumer Law, customers are entitled to a full cash refund if their flight is cancelled or delayed by more than three hours.

Jetstar customers with impacted bookings will be contacted by Jetstar over the coming weeks, and the options will be explained in the second email. Jetstar is asking customers for their patience as the airline works through the huge backlog of affected bookings.

What does the ACCC say?

On cancelled flights and cruises, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) says this:

If events, flights or other travel services such as cruises are cancelled, the ACCC expects refunds or other remedy such as a credit note or voucher will be offered in most circumstances.

However, if the event, flight or travel service is cancelled due to government restrictions, consumer rights under the consumer guarantees may be impacted. In these situations consumers may be entitled to a refund under the terms and conditions of their ticket, or potentially may make a claim under a travel insurance policy.

Although there are currently government restrictions in place that are affecting travel, Virgin and other airlines are still allowed to operate flights. The reason for the cancellations is primarily a lack of demand, resulting from the various travel restrictions currently in place. So, in our view, it’s unclear whether this justification is sufficient to void Australian Consumer Law.

If you aren’t able to get a refund for an international flight, keep in mind that travel insurance may cover your cancellation expenses due to the level of DFAT advice for your destination being changed to “do not travel”.

There is some discussion about this issue on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Am i entitled to my money back [Cancellation]

For more information and discussion on this topic, see the Refunds and Travel Insurance sub-forum in our new Coronavirus (COVID-19) Discussion forum.

________________________

Related Articles

Recommended by the Australian Frequent Flyer

Dan Murphy's: Buy Wine, Champagne, Beer & Spirits Online Now with contactless delivery, shop online to get drinks delivered to your door or pick up in-store in 30 minutes. Lowest Liquor Price Guarantee. Biggest Range. www.danmurphys.com.au
Enhanced Internet Access and Security for Travellers Trying to access your favourite Australian websites when overseas only to discover they have been geo-blocked? Concerned about your internet privacy especially when using unsecured wifi? NordVPN will solve both these common problems. www.nordvpn.com

AFF Supporters can Login Now to remove all advertisements


Be the Frequent Flyer Expert!
Subscribe below to The Frequent Flyer Gazette to receive free updates in your inbox every Monday & Thursday morning.



We respect your privacy and never spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

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]

37
Comments

  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Chris John

Great article and useful information. I had 6 tickets issued on Thai Airways from Melbourne to Delhi. Service was cancelled by TG, firstly unable to reach anyone for 10 days, Finally got through to TG in BKK, surprisingly mean . They insist on a voucher after 3 months due to back log. I have since then initiated a charge back with my bank. Let them go to battle and I will not stop.

It’s absolutely wrong and immoral to rob the consumer in there dire times.

john

It’s absolutely wrong and immoral to rob the airlines in these dire times.

No airline can afford to provide any refunds in this time of “war”

Blaz

Except that a voucher comes with so many caveats…time limits ,and you can’t necessarily exchange kind for kind without paying extra. I had friends who tried to change their flights online, and total extra charges were $10,000!! Needless to say, that their only affordable option was to wait for a call back, and sweat it out.

Callum

But they haven’t incurred the cost of delivery of the actual service ??? So why the heck not – they absolutely should refund.

dogstar

Inversely, most people CANNOT afford to throw money away

Kenneth Barnard

I booked flights through Travel Agent Aunt Betty for SYD-SFO on 12 March, (which I took, and received Qantas points for) . My trip was then to be SFO-Seattle 18 Mar on Alaskan Airlines, then Seattle-SYD 24 Mar on Alaskan to SFO, and Qantas SFO to SYD. Due to city lockdowns and the spread of Covid-19, I decided to end my trip in San Francisco, on Mar 17, and booked and paid for a one-way ticket to SYD via LA,, on Alaskan and Fiji, just to get home ASAP. Both Alaskan and Qantas websites state that I should contact my… Read more »

john

just yesterday got email from aunt betty saying, response time to emails is slow but should get a reply in 72 hours. That’s fine, considering many staff at aunt betty are going to work in MNL & also huge increase in demand for replies, with less staff to answer them. Why would you even bother trying to call ?

Viv

Please your contract is with Aunt Betty, not qantas anymore. Only aunt Betty has contract with qantas to supply you with services and whatever remedy is between the two parties.

Maria

Terrific information
And Emirates? What is their refund policy?

john

their policy should be … if we survive the next few months you can use your credit. No refunds whatsoever. Look say an airline flies 3 times a day from A to B. When they resume flying, they might fly 4 times a week, twice nonstop & twice via C, It might be a case of take it or leave it. Demand will return slowly, but all airlines will have to fill flights, at probably higher than normal fares, before they can put on another & then another flight. With decreased competition, there’s probably not going to be many cheap… Read more »

Elizabeth

I would like to see the voucher/ credit system with Qantas and others changed to one year from the booked travel date. I have flights to Europe in late April which obviously won’t be happening. However, as I booked and paid last October a credit only applies to this October. I have no idea whether I will be able to fly in October or if the event I was travelling for can be rescheduled. I still want to support the airline but may have no option but to cancel rather than take the voucher. Can you look at this scenario… Read more »

Viv

Qantas is not handling the situation well and deliberately keep it ambiguous.
If your flight is now cancelled by qantas, call up helpline and ask for full refund. Irrespective of what the terms and conditions of the original fare is, you’re entitled to full refund for services cancelled.

Be nice and polite to them also helps.
Good luck

LeeNClarke

Since Qantas already cancelled their international flights so once your flight in April is announced as cancelled, you can get your refund. If they havent cancel it, you have no choice but to do the credit vouchers as they still allow you to cancel or wait till nearer the date as they will cancel. I have to say that in this regard Qantas is very fair, much fairer than most airlines. I booked a flight for April and they cancelled that end of Feb. Once contacted, they refund my money and even the credit card charges. Part of the leg… Read more »

Blaz

Would it hurt to add the option of keeping your exact flight, but at a later date ,without the penalty of a difference in fare ?

Ann C

My daughter’s flight to Bali on March 31 is still showing as going ahead but the return flight on April 8 has been cancelled. She has an email from Jetstar that she doesn’t need to do anything but it does not tell her whether she is entitled to a refund or credit voucher and when she goes onto the website she cannot access either the voucher or refund section. Has anyone else had this happen and can enlighten us?

samh004

I have received exactly the same correspondence as you for a flight to Adelaide in under 2 weeks, that is impossible now. The flight was actually cancelled before the border announcement, but the result will be the same. I have taken a screenshot of the page will all its greyed-out options and will be keeping a copy of the email that says they will get in touch with me. When things quieten down a little more, if they haven’t got in touch with me, even if the date has passed, I’ll be speaking to them then, as I will have… Read more »

Ann

Hi Sam, After spending five and a half hours waiting, she eventually spoke to a consultant at Jetstar who checked the booking and said she was eliigible for a full refund, even though she had a discount fare. It looks like the secret is to get on to Jetstar direct no matter how long it takes. They are obviously hoping people will get tired of waiting on the line and choose the default Refund option on the website. Good luck!

top dog

Hi Ann, now that Jetstar has cancelled a leg of the journey, your daughter has got to call the airline, by phone, and tell them what I told them (see: below)

Sharon Wyllie

My daughter booked through travel agent for flights out to bali with Malarlino air for 9th May this craziness is out of control even know we know the reason why flights have cancelled it should be the airline that should come to the party and refund all money paid but yet she is going to be out of pocket how do we get her money back ?

LeeNClarke

No, it should be the travel agent. The travel agent bought the flight seats and onward sell to your daughter. They earn the commission by being the handler. So chase the travel agent to chase the airline. Lession learnt, next time book the flights directly with the airline! All airlines have their own website. If you go thru travel agent, then at times like this, the airline wont know you coz your booking reference etc does not show you as the owner. It shows the travel agent as the owner. Put in the effort – do your own booking!!

Liz

LeeNClarke, do your own booking that is exactly what I did a family of 4 travelling with MalindoAir, due to fly on the 28 March 2020. Malindo cancelled the flight on the 17 March reason ‘ due to unavoidable changes’ I rang them and was told by 2 separate customer service operators service that I would be entitled to a refund as Malindo cancelled the flight. Then on the 23 March I received another email saying the flight was cancelled due to COVID-19. The are only offering travel vouchers and any increase in price is to be paid by the… Read more »

Liz

.

Kilner Mason

Vietnam Airlines cancelled all flights from Vietnam to London. We paid for flights to London via Vietnam leaving 22 April and when we send e-mails requesting a refund all we get is an e-mail stating they are busy. Not good enough

Navin Patel

And Qatar air refund policy?

Colin Saunders

Can you give me any advise on Webjet Tours

Peter

Any comment on Etihad?

I certainly don’t want a credit, to use against a much more expensive ticket in months’ time, or a credit on an airline that has gone belly-up…

top dog

Empowering article! it prompted me to successfully get a full refund this morning from Jetstar by doing the following: First of all, you’ll need to receive an email that confirms a cancellation of any leg/route of your flight booking. Then, call Jetstar/your airline during an off-peak time. I called at 7 a.m. When the automated system asks you to tell it in a few words the reason of your call say: “flight cancellation.” Has the airline contacted you? Say: “Yes.” Follow the prompts, then patiently wait for about an hour. Once the human agent answers, politely and calmly say: “I… Read more »

Jennifer Cook

I also got a Jetstar refund, I contacted them via Facebook messenger.

Ricardo

I want to cancel my flight but Qantas only offer a credit voucher option when I go online, but I’ve chosen a more expensive fare so I could get my money back. The refund button should be there but it is not. I’ve spent hours waiting to talk to someone but nothing. It is not pocket change, I’ve spent over 10k in fares. Happy to pay the cancellation fees. I will keep trying to get to them.

Jennifer Cook

I have been holding off on proactively cancelling any of my flights (with only the ‘credit’ option) until the airline cancels it and then I ask for a refund. It has so far worked every time across 4 different airlines. I travel frequently and will give them my money again, but I don’t need the hassle of trying to manage credits, expiry dates and “equal or greater value” rebookings.

Wan

Any idea if DSC would still apply for a cancelled/change DSC VA flight?

Beedy

Qantas cancelled my flights and converted to credit. I went to the manage my booking web site, and way down the bottom is a little button that says REFUND. I pressed that button and it says they will process my refund request for the full amount. Fingers crossed.

Tristan

Anyone have luck getting a refund from Virgin? We’ve been forced into taking a travel bank credit however we desperately need the cash back.

Liz

I have lots of concerns with Malindo Air, 4 tickets were booked directly with the airline to to fly on the 28 March from Australia to Bali and then return on the 10 April 2020. On the 17 March I received an email from Malindo saying that they have cancelled the flight. Malindo are not having a open or transparent communication with travelers if you call you can be on the phone for more than 2 hours I was able to talk with a customer service officer and they said that I should be entitled to a refund as Malindo… Read more »

Sandeep

Hi Liz.. i had tickets booked with Malindo airlines as well and all they have done is issued refund vouchers. Did you have any luck with the chargeback ?