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Tuesday 19 December 2023

Australian airlines must do better, CHOICE demands

Australians are sick and tired of shoddy service from airlines, consumer group CHOICE has revealed.

A new survey of almost 9000 supporters has found 40% of respondents had a flight cancelled or delayed in the past 12 months.

My experience indicates a much higher level of delays - and a lack of concern from the carriers.

“As we head into the Christmas season, a huge number of people will be relying on flights to visit family and friends," says CHOICE Senior Campaigns and Policy Advisor Bea Sherwood.

"Unfortunately, our survey of almost 9000 people from across the country has found consumers still face a number of difficulties when dealing with the aviation industry.

“Our survey found two in five respondents had their flight cancelled or delayed in the past year - and this does not bode well for the upcoming busy Christmas and New Year period when airports will be flooded with travellers flying to visit loved ones.

The survey also found: 63% of respondents who had a flight cancelled said there was no reason provided for the cancellation, and 65% said they found the cancellation process somewhat or very hard.

Of those who pursued a refund for a flight cancellation, 47% received it within a month. Others faced significantly longer wait times, with 20% having to wait over six months for a refund.

Meanwhile, 85% of respondents who had a flight delayed were not offered accommodation or meal vouchers.

“The fact that people continue to experience such significant difficulties with air travel is simply not good enough," says Sherwood. "Our survey found people are feeling frustrated as flights continue to be delayed and cancelled, often without reason or sufficient warning.

“To make matters worse, many customers do not receive satisfactory refunds or compensation when their flight is delayed or cancelled. For those who do actually end up receiving a refund, they often have to fight tooth and nail with the airline for months.”

CHOICE has been advocating for reform to the aviation sector for many years, and together with the Consumers’ Federation of Australia have recently made a submission to the Federal Government’s Aviation Green Paper, calling for new airline specific consumer protections.

These protections include the establishment of a new independent travel and tourism industry ombudsman scheme, minimum compensation arrangements for delayed or cancelled flights, clearer rights for refunds, and minimum requirements for travel credits.

“CHOICE looks forward to the Federal Government’s final Aviation White Paper," says Sherwood.

"We hope it will set out a clear plan to strengthen consumer protection in the aviation industry. Sensible reforms such as an independent ombuds scheme will ensure people no longer have to deal with the emotional, financial and logistical hardships so many travellers have experienced over the past few years.”

Image: Antony Trivet, Scopio. 

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