11 Jul 2022

Air NZ refund refusal for cancelled flight may breach law - Consumer NZ

From Checkpoint, 5:13 pm on 11 July 2022

Wild weather, sickness and engineering issues have forced flight cancellations and Air New Zealand says there could be more to come - but Consumer NZ warns refusing to refund its customers could put the airline in breach of the rules.

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

More than 2500 people had swapped their tickets for credit by Monday evening.

But what happens when the airline cancels on you?

A passenger Checkpoint spoke to was booked to fly Auckland to Christchurch with Jetstar on Saturday until her flight was cancelled.

Jetstar said it would refund her but warned that it could take up to a month for the money to go through.

Needing to get to Christchurch by Monday for an urgent family commitment, Beth* decided to book a ticket with Air New Zealand.

The one-way ticket cost $400.

"Then four hours later I just received a text message saying that flight was also cancelled for operational reasons and it took me to a link," she said.

"It said that I could have one free change, look for another flight for free - but again there were none that would have got me to Christchurch on time - or I could get a credit. So I really didn't have a choice but to accept the credit."

No refund was offered despite Air NZ being the one to cancel the flight.

Air New Zealand planes at Auckland Airport.

Air New Zealand planes at Auckland Airport. Photo: Unsplash / Douglas Bagg

Consumer NZ Jon Duffy it was "absolutely not fair" that an airline cancelling a flight refuses to give someone a refund.

"They could be in breach of both the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Civil Aviation Act if the fault is genuinely that of the airline and they're refusing to refund, and in some cases compensate, travellers for the delays."

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

"We think airlines should be doing more to make sure consumers know what their rights are."

When an airline couldn't get a passenger on another flight a refund should be offered, he said.

"We think this is a real failing on the part of the government in this instance because since 2019 the Civil Aviation Act has been in review, has been through a select committee process and the key clause that allows airlines to get away with not refunding consumers ... is still in the legislation."

Air NZ declined to be interviewed and could not say how many flights had been cancelled in the past week.