Report reveals how much Australian airlines are ripping passengers off

Airplane waiting at Gate. All logos, lettering, numbers have been removed.

If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been ripped off by an airline while on holiday, then it’s possible you might have been.

Consumer advocacy group Choice is calling on the consumer watchdog to take action against Australia’s airlines, identifying “systemic breaches” of consumer laws.


While it might sound complicated to you as a passenger, Choice has put it down to six difference issues that many air travellers have experienced – the ABC reports.

“Our investigation reveals the significant power imbalances between consumers and airlines, which are not being held to the same basic standards as other industries,” Choice campaigns director Matt Levey said.

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So, how does Choice think the airlines might be ripping you off?

Here are the six ways to look out for.


1. Refund policies

According to Choice’s research, three of the four major Australian airlines didn’t have a blanket no refund policy. The group argues that’s a contradiction of consumer law, which gives everyone the right to a refund. It turns out that some airlines do tell you there’s “no refunds” when selling you a ticket, something Choice argues has gone “unchecked” for too long. “We often see other businesses in other industries held to task for exactly these sorts of practices; it’s time that airlines cleaned up their act,” he said. “Under the Australian Consumer Law, you have a right to a refund no matter how many times an airline lands you with a no refund message as you make your way through an online checkout.”

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2. Cancellation fees

Another thing Choice found was some airlines charge cancellation fees of as much as 100% of the ticket price – which can be as much as $550 out of your pocket! The group points to ACCC guidance, which states travel providers should make cancellation fees reasonable and represent the cost to their business. “When a consumer cannot travel, or chooses not to travel, they can lose up to 100 per cent of the fare, even though there is ample time to re-sell the seat,””Mr Levey said. “Particularly unfair are ‘no show’ clauses that allow airlines to unilaterally cancel your tickets on multiple flights if you are unfortunate enough to miss a leg of your journey. These clauses have been banned in other countries such as Germany and Spain and it’s high time our domestic airlines put an end to this practice.”


3. Fixed compensation

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Choice has pointed at the accountability of some airlines, particularly when flights are delayed or cancelled. The group’s investigation found many Australian travellers weren’t being offered “fixed compensation” if their flight was delayed or cancelled “within the airlines’ control”. “Our research shows very few consumers receive compensation when their flights are cancelled, delayed or changed, and when they do, it’s often inconsistent,” Mr Levey said. “In some cases this leaves travellers paying hefty cancellation fees for flights, which through no fault of their own, are no longer fit for purpose.”


4. Flight times

Choice points to “zero responsibility” shown be some airlines, particularly when it comes to flights arriving on time.


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5. Credit

According to Choice, passengers who have been promised credit for future flights weren’t being given access to it.



6. Ticket voiding

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Apparently, if you miss one leg of your flight, some airlines are voiding multiple tickets. According to Choice, that’s a practice which has bee banned in countries such as Germany and Spain.


So, how can the airlines improve?

Well, Choice said the airlines could act now and avoid the consumer watchdog getting involved.

“If the airlines wanted to actually start treating their customers better they could get rid of the blanket no refund sign,” Mr Levy said.

“They could make their terms and conditions way clearer and simpler to read, they could clearly communicate their cancellation fees and actually reduce them to reasonable levels that reflected the cost of reselling that flight.”

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