Air New Zealand has become the final local airline to significantly extend the deadline for customers to redeem their COVID-19 flight credits.
On Friday, the Kiwi flag carrier said 85 per cent of its customers who had a COVID-19 credit had already used them, but there was still over $200 million remaining.
“Air New Zealand has been doing what it can to contact customers. We’ve directly emailed customers, phoned those with high-value credits, contacted travel agents, and been advertising in national media,” said chief financial officer Richard Thomson.
“So far, close to 85 per cent of our customers who had a Covid credit have used them to book flights, but there is still over $200 million remaining. Given that amount, we believe this extension is the right thing to do to give customers more time.
“Air New Zealand Covid credits were issued for customers who purchased non-refundable fares for flights that could not be flown due to the pandemic. All customers who purchased refundable fares for flights impacted by Covid and have contacted us for a refund have had this processed.”
The new rules mean all customers who have a COVID-19 credit now have until 31 January 2026 to book travel for completion by 31 December 2026. They were initially due to expire on 31 January 2024.
The airline defines a ‘COVID credit’ as one obtained prior to October 2022, with those accrued later being bound by the traditional terms and conditions. It added the latest change was the sixth extension it had granted.
Airlines faced huge criticism during COVID-19 for making it difficult or confusing for customers to claim a refund on flights cancelled due to pandemic restrictions.
Last year, for example, consumer advocacy organisation Choice even filed a formal complaint with the ACCC after consumer surveys highlighted the “many obstacles” faced by customers seeking to cash in their credits.
Choice said one survey showed nearly a third of people trying to use flight credits to purchase new flights were forced to pay more than the cost of the original flight.
Qantas denied the accusation and indicated fare discrepancies were due to rules that restricted flight credit holders to purchase tickets of the same fare class or higher.
However, the Flying Kangaroo eventually scrapped its expiry date altogether. Rival Rex, meanwhile, won plaudits for giving its own customers affected by COVID-19 restrictions their money back within seven days.
The airline’s deputy chairman, John Sharp, said it made the decision because it believed its customers deserved to be treated “with respect and dignity and should not have to suffer the indignity and anguish that Qantas passengers suffer when trying to get a refund”.