How to get a refund for a flight cancellation

Welcome to Sisters In Law,’s weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn advise about your rights when it comes to refunds after a flight cancellation.


I was recently meant to go to Hawaii from the Gold Coast on a family holiday with a connecting flight in Sydney. We got to Sydney okay, only to be told at the airport that the onward flight to Hawaii was canceled and to come back tomorrow.

This happened four days in a row and eventually, it made no sense to fly there as our trip was only for a week. As well as being so disappointed about my holiday, I’m also thousands of dollars out of pocket.

The hotel in Hawaii couldn’t refund our stay and I’m battling with the airline to get my money back – they said as we took the Gold Coast-Sydney leg of the trip we technically took our flight and they don’t owe us a refund.

This seems preposterous! What are my rights in getting the money back from the airline and my hotel stay? – Jules, Qld.


That would have been incredibly frustrating for you Jules – you’ve paid for a service and it wasn’t provided.

Unfortunately flights are commonly delayed or canceled, but you’ll be pleased to know that you may have rights under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), as you purchased flights departing from Australia.

Airlines are like any other company, and must meet a set of basic rights when they are selling their services. These basic rights are called consumer guarantees, and these are included in the ACL.

These consumer guarantees are automatically provided when buying goods and services. When buying a service, such as flights, you have a right to expect the following:

• The airline will provide the service with due care and skill, and

• The service will be provided within a reasonable time.

Services such as flights come with automatic guarantees, including that services must be supplied with a reasonable time. However, flight times do not form part of the airline’s contract with you and they will not guarantee this.

Whilst the flight times are not guaranteed, you still may be entitled to a refund or replacement depending on your individual circumstances, including:

• The length of the delay

• The reason for the delay or cancellation, and

• Whether the airline was able to provide you on another flight within a reasonable time

What is a reasonable time will depend on the circumstances and may not be the same each time you fly. It is likely you would be entitled to a refund for the unused portion of your flights as your flight was canceled for four days in a row, meaning that you would likely arrive in Hawaii only to have 24 hours there and probably have to return home.

Most airlines that operate in Australia have a compensation policy. You should review the airline’s website for what this might mean for you.

Any compensation policy they offer is in addition to the consumer guarantees. You can ask for them to cover your hotel that you did not stay in as part of this compensation.

If you do not have any success contacting the airline (in writing and keeping a copy) then you can take the following steps:

• Make a complaint to your State’s consumer protection agency. In Queensland, that is the Office of Fair Trading

• Contact your travel insurer provider

If your claim is rejected, you can lodge a complaint or request an internal review.

If your claim remains rejected, then you can lodge a complaint with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

• Report it to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)

Usually you will be required to show you’ve attempted to remedy the situation yourself by approaching the provider directly.

Sometimes this process may take longer than dealing with the providers directly as you will be required to provide all of the evidence about your complaint, including attempts you’ve made to remedy the situation.

You could also request a ‘chargeback’.

If you used a credit card to purchase the flights, contact your credit card provider and request a “chargeback” for “services not rendered”.

The provider will investigate and run the dispute for you.

Consider getting independent legal advice from your local community legal centre, legal aid office or lawyer for more specific information about what options are available and those that suit your circumstances.

This legal information is general in nature and should not be considered as specific legal advice or relied upon. Persons requiring particular legal advice should consult a solicitor.

If you have a legal question you would like Alison and Jillian to answer, please email [email protected]

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