Need to know
- The major Australian airlines may offer credit vouchers or rebookings – but with conditions.
- Qantas will give you a refund for cancelled flights, if you ask for one.
- Law firm Slater and Gordon are investigating whether the airlines have acted legally by offering credit vouchers.
Australian airlines have all but shut down international passenger flights while the COVID-19 pandemic plays out.
Rebookings and credit vouchers are being offered for cancelled flights or for people who just want to rebook. But can you get a cash refund if you want one?
Did you book online or with a travel agent?
If you booked through a travel agent or online booking site, you may need to process bookings or refunds through them – they should be able to tell you how to do this.
If you're not flying in the next few days, it's better to wait and contact your airline closer to the departure date, or wait for them to contact you.
Can you get your money back from your airline?
Whether or not you can get credit vouchers or refunds varies between airlines and depends on the type of fare you bought.
Read your airline conditions of carriage to find out if you're eligible. In fact, be prepared to quote these conditions back to the airline because they won't always offer you a refund if you don't ask.
Can you change airline credit for cash?
Full service airlines like Qantas offer cash refunds if they've cancelled a flight. But many people may have opted for a credit voucher without knowing this. The ACCC said it received hundreds of complaints from people in this situation, and that in a lot of Qantas' communications, people weren't informed about their right to a refund.
If you elected to receive a credit from your airline when you were entitled to a cash refund, you should contact your airline and ask them to give you a refund instead.
Below are the refund and rebooking conditions for the major Australian airlines.
How long are Qantas flights grounded for?
Domestic services and flights between Australia and New Zealand are operating. International flights (excluding New Zealand) are suspended until 20 December 2021, however they may not cancel flights until close to the departure date.
Can you get a refund on Qantas flights?
If Qantas cancel your flight, they'll contact you to rebook you on the next available flight, or you can choose a credit or refund. Qantas advises their current processing time for refunds is eight weeks.
You could be on the phone for a few hours if you call them, so only contact them if you haven't heard from them within a few days of your departure date, and be prepared to quote the Qantas' conditions of carriage to claim a refund.
Claiming a credit voucher for non-cancelled Qantas flights
Unlimited fee-free date changes are available for:
- Domestic flights and flights to New Zealand if you book and travel before 28 February 2022.
- International flights booked by 28 February 2022, for travel from 1 November 2021 to 31 December 2022.
New travel dates need to be within 12 months of your original booking date, and you'll need to pay for any fare increase.
Virgin flights grounded
International flights to Los Angeles, Tokyo, Tonga, Rarotonga and Port Moresby are suspended. Domestic flights are still operating.
Virgin Australia Group exited voluntary administration when it was transferred to new owners, Bain Capital in November 2020.
Can you get a refund on Virgin flights?
Virgin's Guest Compensation Policy says that if they need to cancel your flight and can't offer you a suitable alternative, you can ask for a credit or refund. However Virgin also say they can't refund cancelled flights for bookings made on or before 20 April 2020, when the company entered voluntary administration. These passengers can instead claim a Future Flight Credit.
Rebooking Virgin flights
- For bookings made after 20 April 2020, domestic, trans-tasman or international short haul flights (excluding Tonga, Rarotonga and Port Moresby) can be changed an unlimited number of times without fees for trips departing up to 30 April 2022.
- For bookings made before 21 April 2020, domestic and international short-haul flights can be changed an unlimited number of times for travel before 30 April 2022.
- For international long haul flights, and flights to Tonga, Raratonga and Port Moresby, things look a bit tricky. You'll need to contact Virgin or your travel agent.
Jetstar flights grounded
Travel to New Zealand aside, international flights are cancelled until 20 December 2021. New Zealand and domestic services are still operating within the border travel restrictions.
Can you get a refund on Jetstar flights?
Jetstar's Conditions of Carriage say that for events beyond their control, if they're unable to put you on an alternative flight, they'll give you a flight credit. If Jetstar cancel flights for reasons within their control and they're not able to provide you an alternative, cash refunds are available.
Credit vouchers for cancelled Jetstar flights
- If your flight is cancelled, Jetstar advise they'll let you know and provide you with options. The options include rebooking and credit vouchers.
- Vouchers will give customers 12 months to rebook.
Rebooking non-cancelled Jetstar flights
- If you're unable to travel due to border closures or lockdowns, you're eligible for a credit voucher.
- Change fees will be waived for flights booked with jetstar online up to 31 December 2021. You'll need to cover any fare difference for a new booking.
Tigerair flights grounded
Tigerair Australia is not flying, and Virgin Australia Group have discontinued the brand.
Claiming a credit voucher for Tigerair flights
- Tigerair customers will be provided with a travel credit for use on Virgin Australia flights.
- Unused credits will be replaced with future flight credits that can be used for booking flights up until 31 July 2022 for travel until 30 June 2023.
Law firm Slater and Gordon are investigating the legality of airlines and other tour operators offering credit vouchers instead of refunds. If you received a credit voucher instead of a cash refund, either directly from an airline or via a travel agent, you can register your interest in the Slater and Gordon investigation.