Are there new rules for COVID-19 cancellations?

Sam is planning a trip to north Queensland but is worried about his rights if things change.

Are there new rules for COVID-19 cancellations?

Sam is planning a trip to north Queensland but is worried about his rights if things change.


Q. Sam
My wife and I were thinking of taking a trip to north Queensland in October and doing a tour of the Daintree Rainforest among other things. We are close to booking but we are worried about what happens should the COVID-19 situation change? It doesn’t take long for the best laid plans to be ruined in the current climate; what are our rights to a refund if the situation changes? Would we get our money back or would the trip just have to be postponed and taken at another time? We wouldn’t want to miss the boat and then be forced to take our trip in the wet season, or at a time that didn’t suit our plans.

A. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) produced new guidelines for COVID-19 travel cancellations last month to better protect people booking travel and to make the industry aware of its obligations.

According to the guidelines, if the terms and conditions of your ticket or booking state you are entitled to a refund you will get a refund, so the first thing to check at the time of the booking is the terms and conditions you make the purchase under.

You will also be entitled to a free-of-charge refund if you are entitled to one under the common law or under your relevant state or territory legislation.

Booking terms and conditions may state that the payment of a refund may be contingent on the recovery of funds from a third party or may detail cancellation fees or providing a credit not rather than a refund.

The key guidance is to check the terms and conditions of all your travel bookings before you accept and make sure you are happy with them, so you know what to expect if the situation changes.

The ACCC expects refunds to be paid in a reasonable time but has stated that the pandemic often means businesses are given more leeway to process vast numbers of cancellations and refunds.

Travel companies can offer consumers who are entitled to a refund the option of accepting a credit note instead. In these circumstances, the choice between accepting a credit note or refund lies entirely with the consumer.

If you are entitled to a refund and opt for a refund over a credit note, the refund must be paid. If the company fails to provide a refund in these circumstances, they will be breaching the Australian Consumer Law.

Have you had to claim a COVID-related refund on travel? How long did you have to wait? Are you still waiting? Are you nervous to book travel in the current climate?

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    8th Aug 2020
    I have had refunds from two Airlines.

    Qantas deducted $400 per person and no refunds for seats.

    Hawaiian Airlines refunded every cent paid to them, including seats.

    WestJet are still thinking about it.
    8th Aug 2020
    The thing about the law surrounding refunds and your consumer rights is all well and good until you try to get your refund, if a company or airline goes broke then you go on the list for creditors, and you will be at the bottom. I had several holidays booked before the pandemic, so far I have had a full refund for car hire from Europa I received it two days after applying, I have had the taxes refunded on a cruise with celebrity and they have given me a 125% credit to book another cruise with the option of a refund if I decide to cancel, I had flights booked for New Zealand with Virgin they would only give me a credit in their travel bank, so who can say what is going to happen, the biggest outlay was with British airways for a UK trip, almost impossible to deal with, you couldn’t apply for a refund via their website, which meant you had to try and get through by phone, after several attempts to get through I gave up and accepted their credit note, no information available about how much they have credited me, their advice is to check your original receipt and that’s how much credit you have, they have given us until April 2022 to use the credit. All of our travel was booked well before the pandemic began. Buyer beware is the best advice, if you can’t afford to lose your funds I think the best thing to do is wait.
    8th Aug 2020
    I have had a full refund from Singapore Airlines for business class flights. It took a while but at least I got over $7,500 back. Allianz are saying I am eligible for a refund of the travel insurance premium which was over $1,000 but I am yet to see the money. APT (one of the biggest, if not the biggest tour company in Australia) only want to hold credit for you but at least they are very flexible about how you can eventually spend that credit even to the point of moving it to another person. Fortunately I had not paid the full amount. I know at least one person who is yet to see any money from their tour company who have gone bankrupt and these people are now trying to reverse the credit card payment. I think these situations are possibly the worst and these customers need more assistance to recover their money.
    8th Aug 2020
    I booked business class with Singapore Airlines through an agent. I can not recieve a refund vie Singapore airlines only a credit through agent. I have not yet cancelled my flight to uk in Sept. Wondering if Singapore airlines cancel i might get a refund...? They keep changing my seat..?
    15th Aug 2020
    My ticket last April from Sinapore to Canberra was cancelled by Singapore Airlines. I had received advice of the cancellation the night before I left India to fly to Bangkok. The Bangkok - Singapore sector had not been cancelled.

    In Bangkok Airport I visited Singapore Airlines to reschedule my flights. They first advised to deal with the travel agent (not possible as they were now bankrupt) then they advised to deal with their call centre in Singapore (spent an hour on the phone before the call failed). The next day I went back to the airport and told them again what had happened, I had to wait but eventually I was given boarding passes for a flight boarding in one hours time and with the co-operation of the check in staff was able to return to hotel, collect my suitcase and make the flight with a few minutes to spare. The flight went only to Sydney so I had to get a bus to Canberra but there there no chagres from Singapore Airlines for the changes in my flights.
    8th Aug 2020
    Definitely wait until the company/airline cancels your trip. If you cancel before they do, it is a whole new ball game with cancellation/third party charges etc. You need to be very, very patient.
    8th Aug 2020
    Have just delayed a trip up the N Coast NSW due to Covid concerns. All accomodation providers have been flexible, either refinds or rebookings. Have also just finished cancelling 4 1/2 month trip to Europe, everyone giving refunds or rebooking to 2021. Will have to see how the latter turn out. As Hardworker says you need to be patient. Biggest surprise was a 4 day stay in the Cotswolds - the accommodation provider kept the deposit in June but a few days ago sent an email saying they would refund it! Must have been getting flak on the internet.
    Thai Traveller
    8th Aug 2020
    My flights back to Australia from the Philippines were with SCOOT and Cebu Pacific. Flights were cancelled and the airport about to be locked down , so hasty booking to get home.
    After some months, SCOOT has offered me a credit, to be used by next March. The company handling Cebu Pacific flights has offered me a credit as long as it's used in the next couple of months. Flights out of Australia not permitted as yet.
    Karl Marx
    8th Aug 2020
    Sam doesn't say where he's from. If in Queensland shouldn't be a problem, if from Victoria, ACT or NSW forget it until borders reopen fully.
    8th Aug 2020
    Waiting for refund from Flightcentre since mid March
    8th Aug 2020
    Hi there I booked a flight from Tiger air on 7th April for a flight from Adelaide to Melbourne on economy. Before I could fly tigerair contacted me and told me that might flight is cancelled and gave me a link to contact virginair for a credit of the flight fare amount.I had to do it by mid August. I wrote to tiger air requesting for a refund instead and was told that since tiger air has gone into administration no refund can be given. Now it seems that virginair is also going into administration. What can be done in this situation. Can anyone advise please. Thanks
    15th Aug 2020
    How much stress do you want ??? Trip Adelaide to Melbourne not exactly 1000’s of dollars.... as they say in Frozen...”let it go”
    blue trumpy
    8th Aug 2020
    We booked a European river cruise with APT. Paid in full December last year for travel in April 2020. Cost including airfares $28,000.00. Trip was cancelled in February because of Covid19.
    In the fine print of APT's terms and conditions is a Clause "Event of Force Majeure" which in simple terms gives them a cop-out to offer a full refund to its customers. They insist on keeping about $9000.00 to cover third party expenses if we want a refund. We will never travel with APT again.
    8th Aug 2020
    we had also booked a European river cruise with APT for April, maybe the same one as you. We were offered either a refund, which as you state was pathetic or a credit worth 120% of our original trip. The credit can be used on any APT trip or any trip with their Travel Marvel arm. We took the credit offer as we are still hoping to do the trip in the future. If we cant use it overseas we will look at a top end small ship cruise. We've had a mixed bag with other tour operators on which was to be a fantastic world trip over a couple of months. We are out $15000 so far and most of that is travel booking fees. My only consolation is that the trip was cancelled before we left Australia else we could have been even worse off financially or health wise.
    9th Aug 2020
    I wouldn't be booking any flights to Queensland until they reopen their borders unconditionally. It is far too risky for anyone outside to book anything in QLD when they are still locking down borders at will. Knowingly booking flights at such uncertain times may well affect any future cancellations. We are in a pandemic and subject to change. Even epidemics are not covered under normal conditions. This pandemic is not over yet.
    15th Aug 2020
    I was in India when the Pandemic started to cause widespread cancellations. I managed to cancel all hotel bookings free of charge. With the airlines I had a choice between airline credits or a return of about 50% of ther cost of the ticket. Given the uncertainty as to when it would be safe to travel again in India I chose the refund which was paid reasonably promptly and it was clearly the right decision.
    Thai Traveller
    15th Aug 2020
    You did well Alan. When Manila airport was about to be locked down, I had 48 hrs to find a flight back to QLD. Fortunately, I was able to buy tickets which took me via Singapore. With travel Insurance costing me $801.00 for 4 weeks and two extra airfares, It's not been cheap, but I'm hoping things will have settled by March next year, as I've been offered $150 by one airline as long as I use the credit by then.

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