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Aussies fed-up with airlines, car rental, travel insurers

December 12, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Australians are increasingly irked by poor service and “who cares” attitudes from airlines, car rental companies and travel insurers.

The depth of consumer resentment emerges from the latest travel survey by Australian consumer advocacy body CHOICE – which advises peeved travellers to speak up and complain more.

The perceived level of airline service descended steadily in CHOICE’s latest annual travel trends survey, with satisfaction ratings for all domestic airlines down since the 2016 survey.

The survey found that Jetstar (once again) came rock bottom in travellers’  estimation. Holiday problems plagued 48% of Aussie travellers in the 12 months to July 2017 with a third of those having problems with flights.

“Despite that, many aren’t taking up the fight with their airline,” CHOICE head of media, Tom Godfrey, commented.

Aussie travellers are so fed-up with the airline industry, two-thirds of them didn’t bother to complain when they were left stranded. 37% of people who didn’t complain said they thought their complaints wouldn’t achieve anything, while 34% thought the complaints process itself is a hassle. 62% of people said airlines took no action after they experienced a delay.

Difficulty in complaining to the airlines is a consistent theme of CHOICE’s research, prompting the launch of complane.com.au.  Instead of digging around airline sites for a complaint form, CHOICE is urging travellers to file their grievance on complane.com.au so CHOICE can forward it on to the airline.

CHOICE says it used travellers’ experiences to lodge a “super complaint” on the airline industry with the ACCC in 2016. A super complaint is a mechanism it uses when the level of complaints in a given sector have reached epidemic proportions.

The most common flight problems (63%) experienced were delays and cancellation, with people flying on budget airline Jetstar more likely to experience a flight delay or cancellation.

“If your flight is delayed or cancelled, it’s at the airlines’ discretion if they provide any compensation – six in ten people told us their airline took no action,” CHOICE said.

In sharp contrast, the European model is a clear-cut scheme where flyers receive a set compensation amount (depending on flight distance) if a flight arrives three hours or more after it was scheduled, is cancelled or overbooked.

“With delays and cancellations a top problem for Aussie travellers, CHOICE is calling on the domestic airline industry to provide fixed financial compensation to travellers who have flights cancelled or delayed for reasons within the airline’s control,” Godfrey said.

“An industry-wide system of standardised compensation already exists in the European Union, so it’s hardly a stretch for Australian consumers to get the same guarantees for a service they paid for.

“Whether it’s a missed business meeting, family dinner or even a wedding, Aussie travellers shouldn’t have to pay for the airline’s mistakes.”

Travel insurance

Three quarters of travellers said they were covered by travel insurance for their last international holiday. But younger people seem less likely to take out travel insurance, with only 51% of travellers aged under 22 stating they were covered.

Coinciding with 2016 research commissioned by the Insurance Council of Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade into Australians’ travel insurance behaviour, CHOICE research finds travellers have little understanding of their travel insurance.

CHOICE’s 2016 Consumer Pulse survey found 42% of consumers read none or almost none of the terms and conditions when signing up to a product or service online.

Travellers believe they’re covered for events they’re unlikely to have cover for – two out of three (66%) assume their travel insurance covers for insolvency or bankruptcy of travel agents or providers, however less than a third of policies actually provide this cover.

CHOICE reviews of 230 travel insurance policies combined with case studies highlighted serious issues with travel insurance exclusions and consumer understanding of policies, including in relation to mental health, specialty sports and alcohol exclusions.

Car hire

“Poor to terrible.” That’s how 43% of people rated car-hire companies’ response to their complaint.

The CHOICE survey found consumers had the greatest dissatisfaction with car rental companies’ response to complaints (43%), closely followed by travel insurers (41%) and airlines (38%). The CHOICE Help consumer rights advice service regularly receives enquiries related to unfair practices in the car hire industry.

“Car hire contracts are complex documents, particularly for people with English as a second language,” CHOICE says.

“And when you’re standing in a car rental agency queue at a crowded airport after a long flight, your time and capacity to read and understand a 24-page 10,900-word hire agreement is limited.

“So we’re expanding our research into consumers’ experiences of the car hire industry with an analysis of car hire contracts, loss damage waiver and excess reduction products, customer service and booking processes.

Edited by Peter Needham

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