Travel SOS: what are your rights when flights are grounded?

We answer a few questions about what happens when your flight is cancelled or delayed.

flight board showing cancelled flight

The Sydney grounded-flight fiasco earlier this week led to a few interesting questions from YourLifeChoices members. So, in Travel SOS, we answer them one by one.

Q. Gillian
My daughter was coming down to visit me for my birthday and taking me to see a show, but had her flight delayed and so we missed the matinee. Will she get her money back for our show tickets? She doesn’t think she will and hasn’t bothered to check because she didn’t have travel insurance.

A. It depends on the airline with which she was flying. Any payouts for accommodation, transport or other losses are at the discretion of the airline. Tell her to keep her receipts and any evidence of financial loss and contact the airport directly. They will deal with claims on a case by case basis. She may be surprised by the response. And tell her not to take no for an answer. Airlines don’t like receiving bad feedback or publicity, so the cost of refunding her ticket may outweigh any bad press they’d receive if they don’t oblige.

cancelled flight

Q. Jim
Can I get my money back if my flight is delayed or cancelled?

A. Short, sharp and to the point. I’ll try to do the same.

In Australia, if a delay or cancellation is within the airline’s control, it will get you on another flight as soon as possible or refund your money. Some will even provide meal vouchers, accommodation and transfers depending on the length of the delay.

If it’s bad weather or a natural phenomenon, such as volcano ash or a hurricane, an airline will try to get you where you need to go, but will not necessarily compensate you financially.

These circumstances highlight the importance of travel insurance, but even then, check your PDS carefully before paying for cover.

Q. Robert
I was delayed in Sydney and missed a work appointment. I lost income and also prepaid for a transfer. I enquired about compensation with the airline but they said ‘no go’. Is there any other place I can take my complaint.

A. If you think you’ve got a good case for compensation, you can go the Airline Customer Advocate (ACA). The ACA is an independent body set up by a group of airlines that provides a free resolution service to eligible customers of major Australian airlines.

If you have a Travel SOS question, send it to



    To make a comment, please register or login
    1st Oct 2017
    The only time I have had a flight cancelled was for a holiday in NZ with another couple. Our Qantas flight from Melbourne was cancelled, we suspect because of insufficient passenger numbers, so we were flown to Brisbane to catch another flight to Auckland. When we arrived in Brisbane our other couple got seats but we missed out. We were then flown to Sydney to catch an American airline that was going to LA via Auckland. The only seat they had available was in first class so we enjoyed the champagne and first class meals and arrived in Auckland about 5 hours late. Unfortunately the hire car we had booked, but not prepaid, was no longer available and they had no alternative available (we had booked a station wagon to accommodate luggage for 4 adults for 4 weeks in NZ) so they organised a 9 seater van hire with another company. Well done Hertz and Avis. The only effect on our holiday was arriving at our overnight Auckland accommodation late evening instead of mid afternoon.

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