Australian airline passengers could soon receive compensation for delayed and cancelled flights if calls for the government to introduce new laws are enforced.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, consumer advocate Choice and the Australian Lawyers Alliance have all separately raised the prospect of a compensation scheme to rein in carriers arbitrarily changing their schedules.
Adam Glezer, from Consumer Champion, has also been pushing for new laws.
It comes as the government considers its aviation white paper.
“This is something I have been vocally advocating for since 2020,” Mr Glezer told news.com.au.
He said passengers have been out of pocket long enough and with no consequences in place for airlines, “nothing will change”.
“They need an incentive to run on time and to actually run all flights they possibly can without cancelling,” he said.
“As it stands now, it’s an absolute punt whether your flight is going to take off on time or take off at all.
“A compensation scheme is specifically important for people who have to get to a destination on time for a specific reason such as funeral or wedding and can’t afford to be delayed.”
Currently, Australia’s reimbursement offers are behind the rest of the world, with the UK, Europe and Canada all offering compensation models.
For example – inconvenienced passengers in Europe are entitled to between $A386 and $A926 (depending on the distance of the flight), if a flight is delayed by at least three hours with less than two weeks notice.
They are also entitled to free drinks and food at the airport if their flight departs late, and free accommodation and transport if it is delayed until the next day.
However, compensation rules do not apply in situations where extraordinary circumstances, such as poor weather, caused the delays.
In Australia, it’s not as generous with passengers only covered under consumer protection law and Mr Glezer said it needs to change.
“The Australian government, whether it is Liberal or Labor, have repeatedly put off and ignored the issue, despite them being well aware of the desperately needed changes,” he said.
“There needs to be monetary compensation for significantly delayed flights and naturally for cancelled flights within a two-week period prior to the flight being scheduled to go ahead.”
He said it will not only benefit consumers but will deter airlines from preventable delays and cancellations.
As it stands in Australia, airlines decide whether customers are eligible for compensation or a refund, and policies differ between them.
Choice Australia’s money and travel expert, Jodi Bird, said compensation offered by Australian airlines had decreased recently and was often buried in terms and conditions, which means passengers are not aware of what they can access.
“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,” Ms Bird told The Guardian.
She 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.
In its submission, Choice said Australian passengers regularly struggled to obtain satisfactory outcomes when their flights were cancelled or delayed.
“Many people have been left out of pocket or have been given credits they are unable to use,” the submission said, adding that Australians continued to experience challenges redeeming travel credits they were entitled to.
Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesperson Victoria Roy said it’s time for Australia to have its own “simple and straightforward compensation regime”.