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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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