Video simulation shows the design of Auckland Airport’s new baggage handling system, to be developed and built alongside the combined domestic and international terminal. Video / Supplied
When Dylan Büdler’s Jetstar flight from Queenstown to Auckland was canceled on Sunday and rebooked for Tuesday, the airline offered $ 150 per night for accommodation and $ 30 per day for food.
According to the law, he had a right to ask for more.
After spending last Friday evening and Saturday in Queenstown, the 26-year-old Aucklander woke up on Sunday to a text and email stating his flight had been canceled due to’operational requirements’.
Instead of flying out at 9.10pm that evening, Jetstar gave two options; get a refund for the flight and make new arrangements, or change to another Jetstar flight.
Option one was off the table, as there were no flights out of Queenstown on Sunday or Monday with any airlines. Canceling the booking, as Büdler understood from the email, meant he would not receive reimbursement for additional expenses like a hotel or food.
He accepted the second offer to take the next available flight, which departed 5pm on Tuesday July 26.
However, according to Büdler, the reimbursements offered by Jetstar weren’t exactly sufficient.
Since the cancellation was under Jetstar’s control (rather than due to a weather event, for example), they offered Büdler $ 150 per night for accommodation and $ 30 per day for food. He says neither went very far in the tourist town.
“The only available accommodation in central Queenstown for under $ 150 were rooms in backpackers or shared accommodations,” he says, adding that these weren’t suitable places to work remotely on Monday.
“I ended up finding a room for $ 180 a night and accepted that I would just pay the difference.”
According to the Civil Aviation Act, he didn’t necessarily have to.
What are passengers’ rights?
As per the CAA, Büdler was entitled to compensation of up to 10 times the cost of his ticket or the actual cost incurred by the delay, whichever was lower.
Since his ticket back to Auckland was $ 120, he had a right to claim up to $ 1200 in costs incurred by the delay, including money spent on transport, food and accommodation.
This isn’t a hall pass to spend big, says Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy. “If you order a five-star dinner and buy designer clothes, that might not fly and they may push back.”
However, Duff says that, considering the high cost of booking a last minute hotel room or getting a meal, Jetstar’s cap seemed “pretty close to being too little.”
Although this didn’t matter, he adds, because it does not reflect the amount customers could actually be entitled to under the CAA.
“It’s an arbitrary thing they’re putting on,” he says, describing it as a trend that was both popular and problematic.
“It is problematic when airlines create the impression that [reimbursement is] capped at arbitrary figures, rather than 10 times the cost of the ticket, “Duffy says. He believes this can play into the imbalance of power between a consumer and carrier.
“Carriers aren’t aware of what they’re obligated to and consumers don’t know their rights, and they can be misled.”
In these cases, Duffy says, it could be considered a breach of the Fair Trading Act.
When Büdler asked Jetstar if they would cover the $ 100 it would cost for an additional two days car parking at Auckland Airport due to the delay, he didn’t question their response.
“I asked the customer representative if Jetstar would reimburse me for the additional parking charge of $ 100 and she said that this wouldn’t be covered,” he says. “I had to ask a friend of mine to collect the car then come pick me up again on Tuesday evening to avoid paying this fee. “
Yet, according to Duffy, this was an additional cost passengers have a right to seek reimbursement for.
“Oh it’s completely reasonable,” he says.
Büdler says he understands airlines sometimes have to cancel flights due to operational requirements and feels fortunate his work was understanding and he could work remotely.
“I got off pretty light,” he says. “I’m sure there are other people who were canceled that couldn’t work from down there or had to take leave.”