Australian travelers face a new school holiday period marred by travel chaos as hundreds of thousands of passengers around the world face canceled flights.
Airlines and airports have warned of more turbulence as ongoing staff shortages and reduced flight capacity clash with increased demand.
April was the worst flight performance ever in Australia, including during the busy school holidays. The latest government data shows that things barely improved in May and cancellation rates worsened.
Sydney-based former judge Kenneth Raphael has rescheduled a recent connecting flight in the US at extra cost after his original Qantas flight was delayed by a day. Despite allowing three hours, further delays meant he had barely 40 minutes to make the connection.
“After queuing for 45 minutes for our boarding passes, we finally made it to the top of the queue, when the plane had taken off,” said Raphael. “We were told the next flight was full and to return the next day. We asked to be put on standby and were given the last two seats on the last flight, arriving in Austin at 1am.”
Raphael is not alone, with missed connections causing the logistical headache for passengers and travel agents.
Dean Long, CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agencies, said flight cancellations are now a regular occurrence.
“Pre-pandemic airline schedules were tightly controlled with a lot of capacity. Post-COVID those systems have been stretched to their limits,” Long said.
This means that if the first flight is delayed, there will be far fewer seats available for you to rebook.
“It used to be that international flight capacity averaged 80 percent. Now it’s about 95 percent, meaning there’s only five percent flexibility if there’s a canceled flight or a missed connection,” Long says.
And the seats that are left are certainly not for the same price.
“Where we can find replacement rates, those rates are typically double or triple the original cost due to very limited availability and price increases,” Long said.
So your flight has been cancelled. What now?
Find out how the airline plans to make up for the cancellation and decide if that works for you, said Canstar financing expert Steve Mickenbecker.
Mickenbecker noted that if the delay or cancellation will result in further travel disruption and costs, you should file a claim with the airline, as travel insurers do not pay on claims that the airline can reimburse.
That said, it’s worth making a claim with your travel insurer at the same time so you don’t miss the crucial claims window.
“Even when in doubt, file a claim within the insurer’s specified time frame,” Mickenbecker said.
Passengers are also advised to check the status of their flight and sign up for flight alerts from the airline before taxiing to the departure terminal to avoid being stuck at the airport for longer than necessary.
Am I entitled to a refund/compensation?
“Flights purchased in Australia or on an airline’s Australian website are subject to Australian consumer law with automatic guarantees that the goods or services will work and do what you have asked for,” said Mickenbecker.
As part of that warranty, the airline accepts that this obligation includes a reasonable period of time.
Compensation claims can often depend on whether the disruption is caused by factors within or outside the airline’s control, or in which country your flight delay occurs.
“Other jurisdictions have their own consumer laws that may grant different rights to consumers. Likewise, different airlines have their own cancellation policies,” said Mickenbecker.
If you are not satisfied with the airline’s response, you can appeal through the Airline Customer Advocate Scheme.
“In addition, there is a complaints procedure with the state-based Consumer Protection Agency or the Office of Fair Trading,” Mickenbecker said.
Am I covered by insurance?
“The only remedy many airlines offer is a refund, which does not help the traveler get to their destination. And if [a travel agent] If you can’t find a replacement flight, you’ll almost always end up paying more than you originally did,” Long said.
It makes the task of buying the right travel insurance all the more relevant.
Mickenbecker said, “Depending on your travel insurance policy or provider, you may be covered for costs related to accommodation, transportation and food as a result of a missed flight, so be sure to check with your provider in advance.”
Only when airlines are unable to deliver the agreed flight within a reasonable time due to uncontrollable events can they circumvent this obligation.
“If these events are covered by your travel insurance, a claim is possible,” said Mickenbecker.
However, the events and exclusions covered vary widely between policies, so it’s important to check the product disclosure statement before purchasing and choose insurance that covers a wide variety of events.
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