If an airline delays or cancels your flight it pays to know your rights.
If an airline delays your flight, removes you from an overbooked service, or loses your luggage, would you know your rights?
Australian law provides you with significant rights when taking to the skies, but confusion can arise depending on where you are flying to and from.
Consumer group Choice has compiled a list of your rights when your flights are delayed or cancelled at various places around the globe.
Payments for accommodation, transport, meals and phone calls if your flight is delayed or cancelled are at the discretion of the airline in Australia. The European Union, New Zealand and Indonesia have a much better system in place, offering specific payback protocols. If you are out of pocket because of flight delays or cancellations in Australia, keep your receipts but try to keep your expenditure as low as possible – you may never get the money back.
It’s common practice for airlines to overbook flights, just in case someone doesn’t show up or there are cancellations. The only problem with that is, when everyone shows up, someone has to go. So, airlines will ask for volunteers to give up their seat, either during the booking process or at the airport gate lounge. If no-one volunteers, the airline will re-allocate some bookings. If you're affected, you may be entitled to compensation for the inconvenience. More often than not, an airline will offer to book you on the next flight and if it can’t get you on the next plane, they are required to offer you 200 per cent of the cost of your original fare for a domestic flight, or 400 per cent of the original cost of your international flight. It may do this by offering you vouchers, upgrades, lounge access or flyer points, but you should know that you are actually entitled to ask for a refund to your credit or debit card or a cheque.
If your baggage is lost or damaged on an international flight, compensation is governed by the relevant international convention. Choice advises making a report on the loss or damage to luggage before you leave the airport. If the baggage doesn't turn up very soon, follow that up with a letter, usually within seven days. The time limit can be as little as three days to report lost or damaged cabin baggage and up to 21 days if everything goes missing. If you miss these deadlines you lose any right to claim.
What to do if your flight isn’t right
If an airline doesn't deliver the service you'd reasonably expect, you have rights under the Competition and Consumer Act and state fair trading laws. Choice offers a Complane tool to help you compile and file an effective complaint. If an airline doesn't take reasonable steps to help you when your flights are delayed or cancelled, don't put up with it. Complain to the airline in writing. If you don't get a reasonable response, go to your state department of consumer affairs or fair trading and lodge a formal complaint.
You can (and should) also lodge a complaint with the Airline Consumer Advocate, an industry-funded body that was set up in 2012 to facilitate "the resolution of unresolved complaints about airline services". Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Tiger and REX airlines all take part in the scheme, which handles complaints about flight delays or cancellations, fees, airport and in-flight customer service, refund requests, baggage services, frequent flyer programs, and other issues.
Have you ever made a complaint against an airline? Was the issue adequately resolved?
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