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Lawyers call for Australia to mandate flight delay compensation

written by Jake Nelson | March 20, 2023

Long lines form at Sydney Airport during the April school holidays (@jasminchill).

A national association of lawyers is pushing for the federal government to force airlines to compensate passengers for flight delays.

In its submission to the government’s Aviation White Paper, which will set the long-term direction for the sector, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) association argues that a Canada-style compensation scheme will improve the rights of air passengers.

The ALA wants to see monetary compensation for passengers delayed by circumstances within an airline’s control, as well as standards for informing passengers of delays in a timely manner and a legal requirement that airlines provide “appropriate accommodation” to passengers who are significantly delayed or are moderately delayed in the case of certain passenger groups such as pregnant or breastfeeding women and people with disabilities.

“The lack of compensation for flight delays and cancellations in Australia puts us behind much of the world when it comes to protecting travellers’ rights,” said Victoria Roy, travel lawyer and spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

“Rather than Australian passengers having to jump through legal loopholes to receive flight delay compensation, in the rare instances where it is available, it is time for Australia to have its own simple and straightforward compensation regime.”


According to Roy, while the white paper will address both consumer protections and access to services, the lack of a compensation scheme for flight delays is a significant enough problem that it should be considered in the terms of reference.

“Travellers in Australia are currently experiencing some of the worst flight delays and cancellations on record which has highlighted the stark lack of protection currently available for customers,” said Roy.

“Airlines aim to limit their liability for any inconvenience or costs resulting from delays and cancellations, so this type of compensation scheme would help hold airlines to account for delays that are within their control.”

Last month, the federal government released the terms of reference for the white paper, which will cover up to 2050.

The paper outlines four main safety outcomes regarding safety, competitiveness, sustainability and efficiency, and will see the government address several concerns, such as the contribution the aviation industry makes in reaching the nation’s goal of net zero carbon emissions, the regeneration of the aviation sector post-pandemic, and the introduction of new technologies (e.g. ones that affect safety).

The full list of themes and outcomes can be found here.

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Comment (1)

  • Yes, there are some circumstances when airlines have been wanting by their poor actions when handling a delay situation and yes they need to improve BUT, if you think that the actions/intentions of organisations like the ALA are motivated by the need to care and cater for the travelling public then sadly you have been hoodwinked; their motives are for self financial interest and gain and that will only lead to higher air fares. If the airlines are that bad the minister doesn’t need a white, green or whatever coloured paper to do his job. He has a phone and knows the number of the principle airline officers concerned so ring them, put them on notice to instigate operation digital removal; isn’t that what he is paid to do?
    By way of illustration in the case of litigation. For the past few years a class action has been in progress against A.M.P. – the matter still hasn’t been settled and is still dragging on, my point being, affected people have been advised that the litigant fees have risen now to AU$15 Million so there aint gonna be much honey in the pot for claimants after paying that bill and the ALA just wants to cash in because they can. Maybe there is a better way!

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