No refunds despite canceled flights may break rules

Savage weather, illness and engineering problems have forced flight cancellations and Air New Zealand says there could be more to come – but Consumer NZ warns refusing to reimburse customers could put the airline in jeopardy. violation of the rules.

The airline has brought back its Covid-19 or sickness flexibility policy to help ease some of the pressure on airlines in the first week of school holidays.

More than 2,500 people had exchanged their tickets for a credit on Monday evening.

But what happens when the airline cancels you?

An RNZ passenger Checkpoint program spoke was booked to fly Auckland to Christchurch with Jetstar on Saturday until his flight was cancelled.

Jetstar said it would refund her, but warned it could take up to a month for the money to be released.

Due to be in Christchurch by Monday for an urgent family engagement, Beth decided to book a ticket with Air New Zealand. The one-way ticket costs $400.

“Then four hours later I just got a text message saying the flight was also canceled for operational reasons and that led me to a link,” she said.

“He said I could get a free change, look for another free flight – but again there were none that would have gotten me to Christchurch on time – or I could get a credit. So I didn’t I really had no choice but to accept the credit.”

No refund was offered despite Air New Zealand having canceled the flight.

Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said it was “absolutely not fair” for an airline canceling a flight to refuse to refund someone.

“They could be in breach of both the Consumer Warranties Act and the Civil Aviation Act if the fault is genuinely that of the airline and they refuse to refund and in some cases compensate travelers for the delays.”

Duffy said part of the problem was that passengers didn’t have clarity from the airlines.

“We believe airlines should be doing more to ensure consumers know their rights.”

When an airline cannot board a passenger on another flight, a refund must be offered, he said.

“We believe that it is a real failure on the part of the government in this case, because since 2019 the civil aviation law has been under review, has undergone a process of select committee and the key clause that allows airlines to get away with not reimbursing consumers. …is still in the legislation.”

Air New Zealand declined to be questioned and could not say how many flights were canceled in the past week.

Last week, he warned of a three-hour wait to reach his call center.

Although there were long queues in Auckland today, operations went more smoothly at Wellington and Christchurch airports.

Christchurch Airport’s aviation and commercial director, Justin Watson, said there had been some cancellations, caused by weather, engineering issues and “the long line of Covid-19” affecting crews and pilots.

Watson said that once flights are cancelled, passengers may have to wait around a day for another seat as most flights are full.

“It’s an unfortunate situation caused by Covid and there’s not much we can do about it when people get sick and have to self-isolate.”

Wellington Airport’s chief operating officer, Matt Palliser, said the start of the school holidays had been busy with an average of 25,000 travelers a day, the highest number since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic .

“It’s great to see everyone traveling again.”

Palliser said travelers are urged to check flight schedules online, check in online if possible, and arrive at the airport early for baggage drop-off and to clear security.

Both men said the Department of Health had made mask-wearing mandatory and compliance was high at airports and on flights.

“Much better than what you see in the mainstream,” Watson said.

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