‘Simply unacceptable’: Passengers left high and dry
Thousands of cancelled flights have left airline customers high and dry as Queensland opens up to domestic travel, with peak consumer bodies warning that little can be done to protect against refund issues.
The nature of domestic travel has been continually changing as the coronavirus pandemic has progressed, with border policies around travel and quarantine being altered daily.
Queenslanders were given three days to return from interstate when Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Wednesday that the borders would be closed to all NSW, Victoria and Australian Capital Territory residents from Saturday August 8.
Brisbane Airport has revealed that 89 domestic flights have been cancelled already in August, and a total of 37.4 per cent of all domestic Brisbane flights were cancelled since March.
July saw 366 flights cancelled, which was 5.9 per cent of total scheduled services.
With a low cancellation rate from April to June as airlines had not scheduled flights in the first place, 1,885 domestic flights were cancelled in March compared to 2,520 for the whole of 2019.
As customers fight airlines over cancelled flights and refunds throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, travellers have been warned to be familiar with policies before booking future trips.
CHOICE travel expert Kate Bower said anyone booking interstate travel should be aware that border restrictions and lockdowns likely would happen in the future.
"The best way to protect yourself is by reading the fine print before handing over your money. In particular, check the cancellation policy and the conditions of carriage for your ticket," she said.
Ms Bower said poor behaviour had been seen within travel companies and airlines, with thousands of people waiting months for refunds for cancelled flights.
"This is simply unacceptable," she said
"CHOICE urges travel companies and airlines to process cancellations as quickly as possible and to keep their customers informed.
"CHOICE is also encouraging airlines and travel providers to display their coronavirus information and cancellation policies prominently on their websites, and to provide accurate and up to date information to their customers".
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said that travel insurance was no protection from COVID-19 related cancellations.
Consumer Advocate Adam Glezer said the relationship between the travel industry and the customer had been hindered.
"I do believe that consumer confidence in the travel industry is at an all-time low," he said.
"The ACCC have released a best practice guide for the travel industry, effective July, which starts to address some of the issues that are currently out there. However, there is still a long way to go."
Mr Glezer, who runs the 'Travel Industry Issues - The Need for Change for Australians', Facebook group, said he had been working to return the trust between consumers and travel companies.
"We're currently working really hard on legislative change for the travel industry, the reason being to get back the customer's trust with their travel agencies and suppliers," he said.
"This will be a huge win for the consumers because they'll have protection in place that they don't have now."
Gold Coast woman Tracy Goddard has just begun her dispute with Jetstar after she had five separate bookings cancelled at the end of March.
"I asked for a refund but I was told I could only have a credit, so I took the credit," she said.
After finding out her colleague had been granted a refund for a similar situation, she organised a meeting with Jetstar last Monday.
"I asked for a full refund for the five flights, because it's $1500-odd and I was told no, because I chose to have the credit vouchers so I couldn't revert it over to refunds."
Ms Goddard said she was yet to make any progress in her battle, but was not ready to give up.
"The simple fact is that they have my money and they didn't provide me with a service that I paid for."
Originally published as 'Simply unacceptable': Passengers left high and dry