Coalition’s push to make airlines pay for cancelled flights and lost luggage

Domestic travellers should be compensated when airlines delay or cancel flights, or when their luggage is lost or damaged in transit, the Coalition have demanded.

Under the “Pay on Delay” private senators Bill – introduced by opposition transport spokeswoman Bridget McKenzie and now being debated in the Senate – new protections would be created for passengers requiring airlines to provide compensation when customers are let down.

Refunds or other compensation would be provided to passengers who have their flights cancelled or delayed on purpose by an airline, when they are denied boarding on a purchased flight, or when their luggage is lost or damaged.

If passed, airlines would be required to ensure passengers “complete their itinerary” where the delay is due to weather or security events, and the Transport Minister would be required to establish an airline code of conduct within 12 months.

The aviation industry has come under increased pressure since Covid-19 travel restrictions eased, including over allegations tickets for already-cancelled flights were knowingly sold to customers, and accusations of “slot hoarding”. Qantas has denied the claims.

Noting nearly 30 per cent of flights either cancelled or delayed across the January holiday period, senators McKenzie and Dean Smith said the Bill was “critical” to ensuring passengers were treated fairly and reasonably by the airline industry.

“While ticket prices have risen and flight cancellations and delays head in the wrong direction, the Albanese Government has run a protection racket for an airline who dominates the industry, and stifled competition and cheaper airfares by blocking Qatar Airways request for additional flights last year,” Senator McKenzie said.

“This is not good enough.

“A recommendation of last year’s Aviation Senate inquiry was to review airline consumer protections, and this Bill will ensure passengers are being treated fairly by the airline industry in the future.”

Senator Smith said the Bill “puts air travellers first” rather than airlines or operators.

“While we continue to fight for improved competition in the aviation sector, the Coalition is offering Australian air passengers the consumer protections they’re entitled to – because Labor obviously will not,” he said.

Labor won’t support the Bill, and senator Tony Sheldon – the former Transport Workers Union secretary – called out the Coalition for not tackling the issue while in government.

“All the times and ways Qantas ripped off their customers, all their staff during those nine years, there was no interest,” he told the chamber.

“It’s clear this bill is nothing more than a political stunt.”

Qantas has rejected suggestions it should pay compensation for delayed and cancelled flights, saying it would require them to further increase airfares.

Leave a Comment