The ACCC has welcomed Etihad’s recent decision to offer refunds to all consumers who purchased Etihad tickets in Australia which were then cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Etihad has confirmed it will contact consumers who booked directly with the airline, and Australia-based travel agents, to inform them that affected consumers can elect to receive a refund for a cancelled flight, even if they previously accepted a flight credit.

From 26 March 2020, Etihad’s published COVID-19 rebooking policy did not provide these consumers with the right to a refund for flights cancelled due to the pandemic.

Etihad updated this policy on 3 June 2020 to extend offers of refunds for flights scheduled to depart from Australia. Etihad was already offering refunds for flights departing from a number of other regions, including the US and European Union.

Following recent engagement with the ACCC’s COVID-19 Taskforce, Etihad has now further revised its policy by offering refunds to all consumers in Australia who purchased tickets, regardless of where their flight was scheduled to depart from.

Etihad’s conditions of carriage state that a consumer can elect to receive a refund in the event that Etihad fails to operate their flight reasonably according to schedule, for any reason.

“We are pleased that Etihad is fulfilling its obligations under its conditions of carriage by offering refunds to thousands of Australian customers with cancelled flights,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“Etihad’s revised policy, and its decision to also offer refunds to consumers who weren’t previously advised of their right to a refund, should serve as a model for other airlines.”

“The protections of the Australian Consumer Law, which extend to all corporations carrying on business in Australia, prohibit making false or misleading representations about a consumer’s right to a refund, including their contractual refund rights,” Mr Sims said.

“Consumers who believe they are entitled to a refund because they booked their fare while in Australia and who are not contacted by Etihad or their Australian travel agent by 7 August 2020, should contact the business that sold them their ticket.”

Note to editors

Etihad’s conditions of carriage were available on Etihad’s website at the time consumers purchased their tickets. Article 9.2 provided that if Etihad failed to operate a flight reasonably according to schedule, Etihad would, at the consumer’s option, either:

  • provide a refund to the consumer for the unused portion of their fare;
  • fly the consumer to their destination on the earliest available Etihad service, without additional charge; or
  • make arrangements to re-route the consumer to their destination on either an Etihad service or another carrier’s service within a reasonable period of time, and refund the difference in cost if the alternative transport is cheaper.