15 February 2022

You should be entitled to a refund if your flight doesn't leave the tarmac

If you’re travelling with a New Zealand airline, we think you should be entitled to the same as European travellers.

We’re calling on law makers to update our laws to enable consumers to get their money back if their flight doesn’t leave the tarmac.

When the pandemic first hit, Consumer NZ was flooded with an avalanche of complaints about refund rights for flights cancelled due to Covid.

Consumers quickly discovered many airlines weren’t providing refunds because our laws don’t require it. Instead, passengers were (eventually) offered credits, with timeframes for use ranging from a few months to two years. While fine for some, in the wake of a pandemic, this wasn’t the outcome other people needed.

The public backlash against the airlines was immense, but politicians copped heat too, and public assurances were made that the law would be reviewed and consumer concerns would be taken onboard.

At the time the then Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister, Kris Faafoi said it was time to make the rules “more consumer friendly.”

Fast-forward two years and that review is done. The Civil Aviation Act (CAA) is being refreshed for the first time in over 30 years. However, the bill currently before the Select Committee does nothing to change the status quo for consumers. This means passengers with flights that are cancelled due to reasons outside the airline’s control will continue to have to settle for credits.

The CAA review was a chance to address the policy failings that left so many travellers out of pocket in the wake of Covid, but as it is shaping up, it will be an opportunity missed.

We’re calling on policy makers to step up and introduce some decent consumer protections to bring us in line with protections in other countries.

In the EU, passengers are entitled to refunds, regardless of the reason the flight is cancelled. US rules also require airlines operating there to provide refunds for cancelled flights. US lawmakers have said it would be “manifestly unfair” for an airline to fail to provide the flight for which it had been paid and then refuse to refund the passenger. Consumer NZ agrees and would like to see our laws changed to ensure this can no longer happen.

For some passengers, thousands of dollars are involved. Instead of getting refunds, they’re effectively being asked to give the industry the use of their money with no guarantee they’ll ever see anything for it.

If you’re travelling with a New Zealand airline, we think you should be entitled to the same as European travellers:

  1. replacement flights or refunds (at the passenger’s choice) in all cases of cancellation by the airline
  2. refunds (on request) for flights delayed by more than five hours
  3. set levels of compensation in cases of cancellation and delay of more than three hours caused by circumstances within the airline’s control
  4. set levels of assistance offered for cancellation and delay beyond the airline’s control
  5. water or other refreshments after a delay of one hour and food after a delay of three hours, provided by the airline.

All we’re asking for is a fair deal.

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Elisabeth G.
29 Mar 2022
Air NZ credit made difficult to use.

Last week, I spent over five hours on hold, to three different Air NZ call center's. Firstly NZ then (incorrectly) Australia, and finally the International call center. The complexity of living in NZ, having a large credit in AU$, and wanting to use this for a flight out of USA, was a nightmare to get sorted. And yet, I could have done all of this myself, online, IF Air NZ had refunded my money. You are bombarded with messaging about how busy the call center staff are, but to some extent at least, this has been a situation of the airlines' own making. Not refunding was a greedy move, that was always going to come back and bite the customer service team. Or maybe it's preferred that we forget about our Air NZ credit altogether.

Lisa R.
06 Mar 2022
Refunds or changes to flights when they are cancelled due to fog.

On Waitangi weekend Monday my 12 yo daughter and I arrived at the Kerikeri airport and were told our flight home to Wellington (via Auckland) was cancelled due to the fog.
We were told we could catch a bus to Auckland airport but we would need to stay overnight there. Given I was with my daughter I did not wish to arrive in Auckland, late and with no place to stay at 9.30pm esp given the only drop off was the Airport.
Instead we opted to take the flight from Kerikeri the next day that was to have us home in Wellington by evening (via Auckland). That cost us both another night's accommodation and the taxi back to Paihai where we were staying (and parking fees for my car in Wellington airport). When that flight was also cancelled due to fog (that hadn't lifted the 5 days we were in Paihai) I asked if we could change the flight to depart from Whangarei as I'd found someone who I could pay to drive me to Whangarei. After an hour on the phone (as wasn't able to change this on the app) I was told they would waive the booking fee but to change my flight from departing Whangarei instead of Kerikeri would cost me $600.00 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That was $300.00 more than I paid for the flights originally. That third flight was also cancelled we were therefore forced to bus to Auckland and then fly from Wellington.
I found this to be appalling. The lack of service from ANZ - no ability to change flights on app, not enough people on ANZ phones to answer their customer's calls, and then trying to take advantage of us who were in a bad situation already. I don't blame ANZ for cancelling the flight because of the weather but I think they were completely unrealistic and unfair in what they would offer in these circumstances. They handed us (a bus full of people) a sheet of paper about domestic passenger 'rights'. I can see why the bus driver complained most people left the leaflets on the bus. He also let slip there are 4 drivers, working full time to drive people about that have missed their flights in the area. I know most NZ'ers don't like to complain but we must if we want a fair go, which we are clearly not getting now.
Lisa Ralph

Rachael D.
21 Feb 2022
consquential loss due to AirNZ error

AirNZ cost us - through error - in 2020 - telling us flights were cancelled when they weren't (to a family event) and we lost the accomodation etc because it was non refundable - AirNZ later said the flight wasn't cancelled - they should have had to refund our consquential loss

Denise L M.
19 Feb 2022
Travel Credits

We had planned and fully paid for our trip to Europe (paid Dec pre announcement of Co-Vid in the following March), Because we booked the flights with Webjet we got those refunded, however, two other companies we used for the major parts and most expensive parts of our Europe lifetime journey, we were left with credits for up to 2 years from booked travel date to keep this original booking active. Each year, we have to rebook and each year they have increased the fares and charged us more to keep our credit. I will be seething to say the least if we lose all in Oct this year (2 years from original travelling time booked dates). As far as I am concerned if they hold us over a barrel in fear of losing the credit and charging extra each year, then this should be a new booking. These were not cheap. Train tour of Switzerland booked with Railbookers and a European river cruise - Amsterdam to Budapest with Emerald Waterways/Scenic Journeys. Both Australian companies who sell their products here in New Zealand. Can anyone tell me if this is the same law that has been applied to domestic travel here in NZ. Is it because of NZ laws that they will not refund our fares? I sent them both copies of our Consumer Fair trading and consumer acts but they ignored them. Is this why? CONSUMER please help!

Karen H.
19 Feb 2022
airline refund

I also think that the travel agents are partly to blame.
We lost money having to pay cancellation fees twice for the same booking that we had no control over.
I'm loathed to go through a travel agent now, as it cost us dearly.
I think the airlines should refund if the plane does not leave the tarmac.
Consumers pay out their hard earned savings for this.

Rachael D.
21 Feb 2022
Travel agents

The Govt assisted people who had booked with travel agents but not those who had booked direct which was totally unfair as both were suffering the same loss. Husband had a flight to Africa which is still sitting as a 'credit" with virtually no chance of every being redeemed

Geoff P.
19 Feb 2022
Airline refunds

This is simple common sense. This should be standard, as it is in many countries overseas. Afterall, we pay in advance for a service that the airline can't/won't deliver, and why should they retain our money when they can't/won't guarantee they will be able to offer an equivalent service at some future date. This is completely wrong and the government should step in stop the practice.

Mary Anderson
19 Feb 2022
No Refunds for cancelled flights

My flights from Queenstown to Auckland and return were cancelled by Air NZ on September 10 2021. I was due to fly out September 27 and return October 4. The airline has offered a credit to be re-booked by September 10 this year (2022), with the flights to be used within a year from the time of re-booking.

Enquiries have been negative: no refund, because I had a non refundable ticket and the insurance I had purchased does not cover the situation. Considering the service I and many other people contracted Air NZ for has not been provided by the airline, a refund should be forthcoming.

Mary Anderson

Renate S.
01 Mar 2022
Always read the fine print

Why should they refund? If the fare is the cheap one, with "no refund" and/or "no change" then what are you crying? Did you not read what you are buying? Read the fine print and choose the right fare next time. The options are quite clear and fair at the time of buying. It was YOUR choice. Don't blame it on the airline.

Elisabeth G.
29 Mar 2022
You should get a refund

This was a surprise to me. I've always thought of a 'non-refundable' ticket, as meaning that the purchaser has no option for a refund. For the airline to cancel the flight, and then say, 'sorry but we are keeping your money', is outrageous, regardless of what the fine print says. What other industry is there, where you can be told 'we're not going to supply the service you have paid for, AND we're going to keep your money'. Air NZ are getting away with this shoddy business practice, because they can. Consumers need Government intervention to regulate against this unfairness, and bring us into line with the rest of the world.