Australian airline passengers may soon be compensated for delays and cancellations

May 09, 2023
Airlines may be forced to pay compensations to passengers for delays. Source: Getty

Passengers of Australian airlines may soon receive compensation for delayed or cancelled flights as several organisations have proposed the idea of a compensation scheme to the government.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), along with consumer advocate Choice, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA), and advocacy group Consumer Champion, have all pointed out that Australia’s current laws regarding airline compensation are significantly “lagging behind” international standards.

The organisations have proposed the government take inspiration from European flight compensation laws.

Under EU regulations, if a passenger experiences a three-hour delay they are entitled to receive compensation ranging from €250 (AU$400) to €600 (AU$970) depending on the distance of their trip. But if their flight is significantly delayed, they have the choice to have their ticket refunded, which must be paid within seven days.

However, these regulations don’t apply if the delay was caused by factors outside the airline’s control, like weather conditions, medical emergencies, or air traffic restrictions.

Currently, Australian airlines have varying compensation schemes for flight disruptions. The proposed compensation scheme would ensure that all airlines provide uniform compensation to passengers for delays or cancellations.

According to the Daily Mail, Adam Glezer, founder of Consumer Champion, had informed the government about the inadequate flight compensation coverage in Australia as early as 2020.

“The reality is Australia is a long way behind other countries,” he told the publication.

“Until we actually have consequences for airlines delaying or cancelling flights willy-nilly then nothing will change.

“The Australian government, whether it’s Liberal or Labour, has repeatedly put off and ignored the issue despite them being well aware of the desperate need for changes to be implemented.”

Speaking to the Guardian, Choice’s money and travel expert, Jodi Bird says Australian airlines have reduced the compensation they offer for flight disruptions, and the terms and conditions regarding compensation are not easily accessible.

He adds, that the lack of transparency makes it difficult for passengers to know what compensation they are entitled to.

“Typically in Australia, if your flight with a cheaper carrier is delayed you might get a voucher, which at the airport can buy you a coffee if you’re lucky.”

Bird also notes that the country’s current laws allow airlines to issue tickets without the promise of a specific departure time or date, which then allows the airline to cancel a passenger’s scheduled flight without facing consequences for accommodating their operational needs.

“There is currently no real incentive for airlines not to cancel or delay flights … there is no obligation to deliver a service,” he said.

“Airlines would rather not have [a compensation scheme] because it would affect their commercial models and force them to concentrate more on flights leaving as close to on time as possible.

“Australia is really lagging behind the rest of the world here.

“Australian airlines don’t seem to care much about customer service after they’ve sold you the ticket, and something like this would mean they’d have to.”

Changing airline compensation laws could help address future pre-departure chaos at airports such as Sydney and Melbourne.

Last year, over 2 million passengers passed through airport facilities between July 27 and July 17, marking it the busiest period for airports across the country since pre-pandemic times.


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