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Thursday 11 February 2021

Passengers slam Air New Zealand for intransigence on refunds

Air New Zealand is under fire from passengers after passengers booked on cancelled flights to Norfolk Island were told they were not entitled to a refund.

Air New Zealand temporarily cancelled all flights from Australia to Norfolk Island to weeks ago after the Australian government suspended quarantine-free flights from New Zealand to Australia (these have since been reinstated).

Due to the changed border restrictions, Air New Zealand said its crew would have been unable to operate the Australian domestic flights without first undergoing 14 days of hotel quarantine.

This left hundreds of Australians stranded and prompted Qantas to operate five rescue flights between Brisbane, Sydney and New Norfolk last week, 

Members hit the Australian Frequent Fyer (AFF) notice board to complain about Air New Zealand's high-handedness. Air NZ was the most-complained-about company in 
Aotearoa last year.

An Air New Zealand spokesperson confirmed to AFF that customers booked to Norfolk Island were orginally offered either a travel credit or to change their travel dates, but that the airline has since decided to offer refunds to passengers booked on the cancelled Norfolk Island services as a “gesture of goodwill”.

This is a good outcome for those affected passengers but Air New Zealand maintains that it is not legally required to refund passengers where a flight is cancelled for reasons outside the airline’s control.

The airline argues that events such as the recent Norfolk Island cancellations are due to Covid-19-related restrictions, and are therefore beyond their control.

Since last year, this policy has left many tens of thousands of Air New Zealand customers with cancelled flight bookings unable to access refunds. Many of these customers have instead been issued with flight credits that will expire by the end of this year.

According to section 15.5 of Air New Zealand’s conditions of carriage, the airline is entitled to issue a credit instead of a refund under some circumstances.

Air New Zealand's website says that passengers can “book with confidence”, as the airline is waiving change fees or offering credit vouchers for any flights booked until March 31. But that doesn’t guarantee a refund.

Unlike Air New Zealand, Qantas’ policy is to offer refunds for any flights cancelled by the airline, industry expert AFF reports.

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