Flights and events are being cancelled as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic unfolds in Australia. So how can you get a refund?
As the coronavirus pandemic worsens in Australia, all international travel has now been banned indefinitely under unprecedented Level 4 travel restrictions.
Virgin Australia will suspend all international flights from April and will cut back its domestic flights by half, and other airlines could soon follow suit.
The government has also announced bans on any non-essential outdoor gatherings of 500+ people, and bans on non-essential indoor gatherings of 100+ people in a bid to control the spread of the virus.
As a result, events, flights and other travel services have been cancelled, leaving many people wondering how to get their money back.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), "if events, flights or other travel services such as cruises are cancelled, the ACCC expects refunds or other remedy such as a credit note or voucher will be offered in most circumstances".
However, you may not be entitled to a refund if the government imposes severe restrictions, like a lockdown.
"If the event, flight or travel service is cancelled due to government restrictions, consumer rights under the consumer guarantees may be impacted," the ACCC said.
"In these situations consumers may be entitled to a refund under the terms and conditions of their ticket, or potentially may make a claim under a travel insurance policy.
"If a consumer chooses not to attend an event that is still going ahead or travel domestically due to coronavirus concerns, this may be treated as a ‘change of mind’.
The same applies to hotel room bookings. Consumers’ rights to refunds in these circumstances will depend on the terms and conditions and any cancellation policy adopted by the business."
If you've booked an overseas or domestic trip, standard travel insurance policies are unlikely to cover cancellations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, many hotels, airlines and third party booking websites are advising that customers may be eligible to access travel credits and some are allowing customers to receive full refunds in some cases.
As for events that have been cancelled due to the coronavirus, most major ticketing outlets are offering full refunds for customers.
Let's deep dive into how to get your money back if your travel or event plans have been cancelled.
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How to get a refund for travel cancellations due to COVID-19
My flight, tour or cruise has been cancelled. Am I entitled to a refund?
"If your travel is cancelled the ACCC expects that you will receive a refund or other remedy, such as a credit note or voucher, in most circumstances," the ACCC said.
"However, if the event is cancelled due to government restrictions, this impacts your rights under the consumer guarantees. You may still be entitled to a refund under the terms and conditions of your ticket.
"You should contact the business directly to request a refund or other remedy such as a credit note or voucher."
My flight, cruise or tour services has been cancelled. Am I entitled to compensation for related expenses booked separately, such as accommodation?
"You should first approach the provider of the related service to see if they are prepared to offer a refund, replacement service or voucher," the ACCC said.
"You should also check whether you are covered under any travel insurance policy.
"You may be entitled to compensation for these expenses under the Australian Consumer Law but this will depend on the specific circumstances. This is unlikely to be the case where the travel is cancelled due to government restrictions."
I wish to cancel my travel booking due to health and safety concerns about COVID-19. What are my rights in this situation?
"If you no longer wish to travel due to concerns about COVID-19, this may be treated as a 'change of mind'," the ACCC said.
"You should contact the provider to see if you are entitled to a remedy such as full or partial refund, credit note or voucher.
"If you have a health condition that means you are at higher risk you should contact the provider to see if they will offer you a refund or a voucher for a later date."
Qantas, Virgin Australia and Flight Centre allowing travel credits
What Qantas said:
Qantas said customers with existing bookings on any domestic or international flight until 31 May 2020, who no longer wish to travel, can cancel their flight and retain the value of the booking as a travel credit voucher. This needs to be processed by 31 March 2020.
These changes apply to all domestic and international flights for Qantas, QantasLink and Jetstar (including Jetstar domestic services in New Zealand and Jetstar Asia’s flights between Darwin and Singapore).
“We understand that some customers would prefer not to travel at the moment," said Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully.
“We have removed the standard change fees, where it applies, and are giving customers the option to cancel their flight and receive a travel voucher that can be used anywhere on our network at a later date."
Travel credit vouchers can be used for travel on any domestic or international flights. Qantas and Jetstar will waive the change fee once customers are ready to re-book.
- For Qantas customers, travel credit can be redeemed for travel for up to 12 months from the original booking.
- For Jetstar customers, travel vouchers can be redeemed in one booking only within 6 months of issue, for travel within 12 months of the new booking date.
Qantas Frequent Flyers who have booked classic redemption flights on Qantas, Jetstar and all partner airlines, and no longer wish to travel, will have change fees waived.
Qantas customers who make a new domestic or international booking and later decide they no longer wish to travel can cancel their flight and retain the value of the booking as a Qantas travel credit or Jetstar travel voucher.
This applies to bookings made from 10 March 2020 until 31 March 2020 for travel before 31 May 2020.
If flights were booked through a travel agency or third-party website, customers will need to contact them directly to make changes to their booking.
What Virgin Australia said:
Virgin Australia said customers with international bookings from now until June 30 who want to cancel their booking have the option to change their flight to a later date and/or a different destination - without incurring a change fee.
"They'll just need to cover the difference if the value of the new fare is greater than the original," the company said on its website.
"If they want to cancel their flight, they are eligible to receive credit to a travel bank with no cancellation fee."
What Flight Centre said:
Flight Centre said they are "happy to offer our customers the option to either rebook their travel, alternatively, we can place the value into a credit for travel within 12 months of cancelling.
"If you keep your money on file, we will waive our standard cancellation fee. However supplier fees may still apply as this is out of our control.
"We recommend rebooking if the option is suitable for you, as many airlines and other suppliers currently have more flexible change conditions than usual, including waiving fees."
Customers who want to cancel their international flight or cruise booking have two options:
- If you choose to keep the full amount of your booking on file to spend on travel within 12 months of cancelling. Flight Centre will waive cancellation fees. However supplier fees may still apply.
- If you want a refund for cancellation that is either forced (by the supplier) or voluntary (you are choosing to cancel your holiday), Flight Centre will apply the standard $300 cancellation fee per person.
Normal cancellation fees apply to all domestic bookings.
Airbnb allowing full refunds in some circumstances
According to Airbnb, reservations made on or before 14 March 2020 for stays and Airbnb Experiences, with a check-in date between 14 March 2020 and 14 April 2020, are covered by the policy and may be cancelled before check-in.
Guests who cancel will receive a full refund, and hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status. Airbnb will refund all service fees for covered cancellations.
However, reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before 14 March 2020, with a check-in date after 14 April 2020, will not be covered under our extenuating circumstances policy, except where the guest or host has contracted COVID-19. The host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual.
Third-party online booking websites
What Expedia said:
Customers can go online and change or cancel most reservations from their account with no additional fees for flights, hotels, car rentals and activities.
"If your airline has issued a policy and your travel is within the next 14 days, please call us for cancellations. If your travel is more than 14 days away. Please send us your booking details via this cancellation form," the company said on its website.
"We will respond with the amount which will be credited to your credit / debit card which you used at the time of purchase."
What TripAdvisor said:
TripAdvisor said on its website that standard travel insurance is unlikely to cover cancelations as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
"Concern over health and safety is not generally listed under standard coverage," it said.
"In addition, because the spread of the COVID-19 virus is well known and is no longer considered an “unexpected event,” travellers are also unable to purchase “Trip Cancellation” benefits for the coronavirus.
"Travelers are instead being encouraged to purchase a “Cancel For Any Reason” upgrade, which will ensure coverage for the outbreak — but this typically increases the premium by about 40%."
If customers have trip interruption coverage included in their policy, standard travel insurance will likely cover them.
How to get a refund for event cancellations due to COVID-19
I bought tickets for an event that has been cancelled. Am I entitled to a refund?
"If your event is cancelled the ACCC expects that you will receive a refund or other remedy, such as a credit note or voucher, in most circumstances," the ACCC said.
"However, if the event is cancelled due to government restrictions, this impacts your rights under the consumer guarantees.
"You may be entitled to a refund under the terms and conditions of your ticket. You should contact the business directly to request a refund or other remedy such as a credit note or voucher."
I bought tickets to an event that has been cancelled. Am I entitled to compensation for related travel or accommodation expenses booked separately?
"You should first approach your travel or accommodation provider to see if they are prepared to offer a replacement service, refund or voucher," the ACCC said.
"You should also check whether you are covered under any travel insurance policy.
"You may be entitled to compensation for these expenses under the Australian Consumer Law but this will depend on the specific circumstances. This is unlikely to be the case where the event is cancelled due to government restrictions."
I bought tickets to an event but no longer wish to attend due to concerns about COVID-19. Am I entitled to a refund?
"If you no longer wish to attend an event due to concerns about COVID-19, this may be treated as a 'change of mind'. You should contact the event organiser to see if you are entitled to a remedy such as full or partial refund, credit note or voucher," the ACCC said.
"If you have a health condition that means you are at higher risk, you should contact the event organiser to see if they will offer you a refund or a voucher for a later date."
Ticketek, Ticketmaster offering full refunds
What Ticketek said:
Major ticketing outlet Ticketek has moved to reassure customers that they will receive a refund if their event has been cancelled due to the coronavirus.
"Tickets purchased by credit or debit card will be refunded in full including ticket insurance premium and refundable ticket purchase, if relevant, and patrons do not need to take any action," it said on its website.
"Patrons should allow approximately 20 working days for the refund to appear in their account."
What Ticketmaster said:
Similarly, Ticketmaster is offering refunds for customers for events that have been cancelled due to coronavirus.
"If your event has been cancelled or rescheduled, you have or will soon receive, an email with the information you need. Therefore, you do not need to contact us," it said on its website.
It gets a little more grey when an event has been rescheduled, with Ticketmaster simply saying, "we are working with the event organiser to identify new dates, and we will contact you as soon as we have confirmation and more information this".
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