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 are operating on a restricted schedule due to state border closures. Qantas advises international flights are unlikely to resume until July 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.
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
- For flights due to depart on or before 31 March 2021, you can claim a credit voucher that will be valid until 31 December 2022.
- You can use the voucher only for fares that are equal to or higher in value than the original fare you paid. For higher fares, you'll have to pay the difference, plus any change fees.
- You'll need to cancel your booking before the flight departure date to claim your credit voucher.
Virgin flights grounded
Virgin Australia Group (which includes Tigerair) was transferred to new owners, Bain Capital in November 2020. Flights to Los Angeles and Tokyo are suspended, and other international short-haul flights are suspended until late October. Domestic flights are still operating.
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. These passengers can instead claim a Future Flight Credit.
Rebooking Virgin flights
- For bookings made on or after 21 April 2020, domestic or international short haul flights (excluding Tonga) can be changed an unlimited number of times without fees for trips departing up to 30 June 2021.
- For bookings made before 21 April 2020, domestic and international short-haul flights (excluding Tonga flights) can be changed an unlimited number of times to any date up to 12 months in advance.
- For international long haul flights, including flights to Tonga, 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 28 February 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 issued from 1 March 2020 will give customers 12 months to rebook.
Rebooking non-cancelled Jetstar flights
- Bookings on domestic flights made from 21 May 2020 to 15 November 2020 for travel up to 15 December 2020 can be rebooked once, free of charge.
- For domestic flights booked before 21 May, the standard fare rules apply.
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.