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2 in 5 survey respondents had a flight cancelled or delayed in past year: CHOICE

Consumers continue to experience difficulties with airlines as busy Christmas season approaches.

Last updated: 19 December 2023

A new survey of almost 9000 supporters from consumer group CHOICE has found 40% of respondents had a flight cancelled or delayed in the past 12 months. 

"As we head into the Christmas season, a huge number of people will be relying on flights to visit family and friends. Unfortunately, our survey of almost 9000 people from across the country has found consumers still face a number of difficulties when dealing with the aviation industry," says CHOICE Senior Campaigns and Policy Advisor, Bea Sherwood.

"Our survey found 2 in 5 respondents had their flight cancelled or delayed in the past year – this does not bode well for the upcoming busy Christmas and New Year period when airports will be flooded with travellers flying to visit loved ones," says Sherwood. 

The survey also found:

  • 63% of respondents who had a flight cancelled said there was no reason provided for the cancellation, and 65% said they found the cancellation process somewhat or very hard. 
  • Of those who pursued a refund for a flight cancellation, 47% received it within a month. Others faced significantly longer wait times, with 20% having to wait over six months for a refund. 
  • 85% of respondents who had a flight delayed were not offered accommodation or meal vouchers. 

"The fact that people continue to experience such significant difficulties with air travel is simply not good enough. Our survey found people are feeling frustrated as flights continue to be delayed and cancelled, often without reason or sufficient warning," says Sherwood. 

"To make matters worse, many customers do not receive satisfactory refunds or compensation when their flight is delayed or cancelled. For those who do actually end up receiving a refund, they often have to fight tooth and nail with the airline for months," says Sherwood. 

CHOICE has been advocating for reform to the aviation sector for many years, and together with the Consumers' Federation of Australia have recently made a submission to the Federal Government's Aviation Green Paper, calling for new airline specific consumer protections. 

These protections include the establishment of a new independent travel and tourism industry ombuds scheme, minimum compensation arrangements for delayed or cancelled flights, clearer rights for refunds, and minimum requirements for travel credits. 

"CHOICE looks forward to the Federal Government's final Aviation White Paper. We hope it will set out a clear plan to strengthen consumer protection in the aviation industry. Sensible reforms such as an independent ombuds scheme will ensure people no longer have to deal with the emotional, financial and logistical hardships so many travellers have experienced over the past few years," says Sherwood. 

See the submission to the Aviation Green Paper here. 

Editor's notes: 

CHOICE's most recent travel survey was conducted in October 2023 and received 8947 responses from supporters about their experiences with the aviation industry in Australia over the past 12 months. Supporters were asked about cancelled and delayed flights, their experiences with the Airline Customer Advocate and whether they support measures to improve the sector such as the establishment of a travel and tourism ombuds scheme and minimum consumer protections.

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