Trans-Tasman bubble: your rights if things go wrong

What you need to know if the trans-Tasman bubble pops.

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From this week, Kiwis can jump the ditch and holiday in Australia again without quarantining at either end. But if Covid rears its ugly head just before you’re about to fly or once you’ve arrived, what are your rights?

Travel in the trans-Tasman bubble won’t be the same as a trip to Oz was pre-Covid. As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned, it’s a case of flyer beware.

If you’re weighing up which airline to fly with, and what happens if your trip gets stymied, we found Qantas’ cancellation terms are the fairest.

What if I book a flight but there’s an outbreak before I’m due to fly?

Air New Zealand will let you change your flight to Australia without charging you to do so if you’re due to fly before 31 December. But you’ll have to pay more if the flight you’re changing to is pricier than your original.

If your flight is cancelled because of border restrictions, you’ll be stuck with a credit. You’ll only get your money back if your ticket is fully refundable or you qualify for a “Covid-19 compassionate refund” because you’re unwell or in financial hardship.

If Air New Zealand is responsible for the cancellation – for example, it mucked up the flight schedule – you’re entitled to a refund and don’t have to settle for a credit.

Qantas will also let you change your flights without charging a fee if you book before 31 July and are due to fly before 28 February 2022. You’ll need to pay any fare difference.

If Qantas cancels your flight, it will rebook you or give you a refund if it can’t get you on another flight that suits. This applies regardless of the reason for the cancellation.

With Jetstar, you’ll need to pay a change fee and fare difference if you decide to change your travel plans after you book, unless you hold a flexible ticket.

Alternatively, you can buy “FareCredit”, offered with selected flights. This lets you cancel your flight for any reason up until check-in opens and get a credit, or upgrade to a flexible ticket.

What if the flight is cancelled due to border closures? If the airline can’t rebook you on a flight that suits, you’ll be stuck with a credit.

What if an outbreak occurs while I’m in Oz?

If Australia has a community case of Covid-19 and needs time to track where it came from, flights to and from a state could be paused for up to three days. Or if there are multiple cases from an unknown source, the bubble could be suspended while a state goes into lockdown.

When you book a flight, you’re taking the risk that either of these things could happen and you’d be stuck in Oz for longer than you expected. You would have to pay for any accommodation costs – and possibly have to pay for a stint in managed isolation when you return home.

At the moment, managed isolation costs $3100 for the first person, and $950 for each additional adult and $475 for a child sharing the room. There’s no charge for children under three.

Will travel insurance cover me if I can’t fly home?

You’ll need to check any travel insurance policy carefully to see what it covers. Some insurers are offering limited Covid-19 travel insurance that will help if you get Covid-19. However, you can’t claim for costs arising from government-directed border closures – say the bubble is suspended and you’re stuck in Oz.

For example, Air New Zealand is offering travel insurance with Covid-19 cover, which will help if you or your travel companion can’t travel because you catch Covid-19. But the policy won’t help if you need to enter managed isolation on your return home or extend your stay in Australia because the border is shut.

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