Australian Traveller’s Steve Madgwick talks to Julia Lines from passenger rights group Airline Customer Advocate to get the low-down about your rights when your plane/flight is delayed or cancelled (in Australia).
Am I entitled to monetary compensation for flight delays?
You are not entitled to mandatory compensation when a flight is delayed because the airline’s agreement is limited to flying you from airport A to airport B, rather than flying you from A to B at the times specified in your itinerary.
What about the right to be put up in a hotel room and meals overnight?
Airlines do not guarantee flight times. If your flight is delayed for a long period and you decide to book a flight on another airline carrier, the airline may not be required to refund this additional cost. Airlines are also not required to compensate you if your flight is delayed or provide you with a bottle of water or a meal (or voucher) while you wait at the airport.
Time to complain?
If the airline can’t resolve your issue on the spot, then it should be escalated to the airline’s customer care team so that the complaint can be acknowledged and responded to. All of the airlines that participate in the ACA scheme include information in their customer service charters about accessing their complaint management processes and response times.
Get it in writing!
If the airline says it will reimburse your expenses, make sure it is in writing to avoid disappointment.
Each airline has its own policies about how it will manage delayed passengers. Always check with staff about whether the airline will pay for meals, phone calls, transfers or accommodation if the delay is overnight.
What’s the first step during a delay?
Contact the airline to find out how late the flight will be, but be aware that it can be difficult for the airline to predict the length of the delay. Also, staff cannot provide information until they are cleared to do so. Ensure the airline has your best contact number and email address so that information on the flight disruption will reach you.
Flight cancelled, what next?
If the flight is delayed as a result of an event beyond an airline’s control, it will attempt to rebook you on its next available flight. If the proposed rebooking is not acceptable, the airline may agree to refund the applicable flight and you should check to see if this is an option. A refund is only available if it is provided for in the airline’s conditions of carriage, or under laws administered by consumer protection bodies.
When does a flight delay become a flight cancellation?
I am not aware of a reasonable or an unreasonable time that has to expire before a flight will be cancelled. The airline will usually always intend to operate the flight until it decides to cancel the service.
Connections: how tight is too tight?
Allow at least 3-4 hours for connecting flights. It may sound excessively long however, the extra 30 minutes can save you from a holiday disaster particularly if it is an international flight connection with a different airline. Read and understand the airline’s Conditions of Carriage prior to booking and consider the questions: “What if my flight is delayed?” or “Do I need an earlier flight”?
(The Department of Infrastructure and Transport publishes a monthly report “Airline On Time Performance” that provides information about flight delays and punctuality of the domestic and regional airlines.)
Travel insurance to the rescue?
Given flight delays are a reality of airline travel, travel insurance is highly recommended. Depending on the provider, you can be covered for costs arising from delays and cancellations. Check with the insurer to understand what out-of-pocket expenses the airline or the travel insurer will reimburse, or won’t, as the case may be.