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Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, today moved a motion calling on the Federal Government to adopt the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) recommendations to establish an independent ombudsman and fit-for-purpose compensation scheme for delayed and cancelled flights. Please see above video for full speech.

“It’s no secret that Australian airlines have regularly been in the headlines lately for all the wrong reasons – like unfair pricing practices, poor communication with customers, advertising fares for cancelled flights, and frustrating flight delays,” Mr Wilkie said.

“Plenty of constituents have contacted my office, sharing stories of delayed or cancelled flights and the financial burden that comes with that, as well as evidence of unfair pricing practices and poor communication from airlines. For example, one constituent was out of pocket approximately $700 when Jetstar cancelled her flight at the last minute. She lost more than $500 just on the rental car and airport parking, and was told by Jetstar in no uncertain terms that the airline won’t compensate these pre-booked expenses.

“Airlines should not be able to get away with this. But they do, because it’s mostly the airlines who get to decide what happens when a passenger has missed a holiday, an important work meeting, a wedding or even a funeral. All too often customers are left in terrible despair and very significantly out of pocket.

“While Australians have some rights under Australian Consumer Law, those rights are far from clear when it comes to flight delays and cancellations. Moreover, the lack of effective mechanisms for consumers to resolve disputes and enforce their consumer guarantees, leaves consumers having to resort to raising problems with regulators or pursuing claims in tribunals or small claims courts, which is time consuming, sometimes costly and often beyond people. It’s no wonder contacts to the ACCC about airline issues have remained persistently high and above pre-pandemic levels.

“Australia lacks regulation, enforcement and complaint-handling mechanisms. Indeed Australia lags behind other countries when it comes to securing compensation from airlines, something the Government clearly must implement here.

“While it’s a positive that Qantas is promising service improvements, the airlines simply cannot be left to regulate themselves. We need strong consumer protections in place and the Government must heed the calls of the ACCC which, in its Domestic Airline Competition report, called for an independent ombudsman scheme to handle consumer complaints, and a targeted and fit-for-purpose compensation scheme for delayed and cancelled flights.

“Only then will Australians have confidence they will not be unreasonably out of pocket for flight disruptions and, if they are, there will be appropriate mechanisms in place to help navigate the system.”