A Kiwi family were left $1564 out of pocket after Jetstar cancelled their flight and refused to reimburse them the cost of new flights.
The airline claims their employee made a “mistake” when they refused to uphold the Civil Aviation Act.
David Isaacs, his wife and two young children were driving to Auckland Airport on Thursday, September 21 when they received an email from Jetstar.
“Two hours before the scheduled takeoff of the plane, we got an email saying, ‘Your flight’s been cancelled, and please check this link to see your options’,” Isaacs said.
Since the family lives more than 50 kilometres north of Auckland, they had left that morning to catch the 2.50pm flight to Wellington. After receiving the email, they pulled over in Silverdale and discovered the next available flight was midday on Saturday.
“That wasn’t acceptable for us - we needed to get down there on Thursday. So, we quickly looked at Air New Zealand and booked their last flight available for the day.”
Not only was the flight an additional $1564, but it didn’t depart until 7.30pm, which made for a long day for his 2-year-old and 4-year-old daughters.
“It was a bit of a wild day, because instead of landing in Wellington at 3.30pm, getting to our accommodation and being set up for dinner, we didn’t get in until nearly 11pm,” Isaacs said.
Nonetheless, it was the only suitable option, and he knew he was entitled to a refund for the original flight and reimbursement for the new flights.
“I set about the refund process and said, ‘Hey, you’ve refunded me for my flight, but it cost me significantly more to get where I needed to go. And it was operational requirements or wasn’t something outside of your control, so you’re required to pay me out’,” he said.
Unlike many travellers, Isaacs had ‘done his reading’ and knew about the Civil Aviation Act.
This Act states that if a flight is delayed or cancelled for reasons within the airline’s control, passengers are entitled to compensation of up to 10 times the cost of their ticket, or the actual cost of delay, whichever is lower.
The Jetstar employee Isaacs was assigned via chatbot did not accept the terms of the legislation, even after Isaacs quoted it to them, according to a transcript of the conversation seen by the Herald.
“Their chatbot just kept saying, ‘No, we’ve offered you a refund and you accepted the refund offer so that’s it’,” he said.
Unsatisfied, Isaacs asked for contact details he could escalate the issue to and was told there was “no one to escalate it to”.
According to Jetstar, the matter was a misunderstanding and the employee had made a mistake.
“We have contacted Mr Issacs to apologise and fix the mistake and are providing additional training to our customer care teams to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” said a spokesperson for the airline.
The airline would also check the specific employee’s previous responses for errors.
“While we provided Mr Isaacs with a refund, under our policy in these situations, we should have also covered the cost of the fare difference for the new flights,” said a spokesperson.
Isaacs was thrilled to receive the reimbursement without enduring a Disputes Tribunal case, but said that given the profits airlines are making and ‘crazy amounts’ people pay to fly, airlines should be held to higher standards.
Consumer NZ agrees and has been “campaigning hard for long-term change in the system”.
In October 2022, the watchdog complained to the Commerce Commission about Jetstar breaking the rules and misleading passengers.
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