Have you been 'bumped' from an overbooked flight within New Zealand during the past two years? Were you satisfied with the compensation, if any, you were offered? If the answer to those questions are 'Yes', and 'No', then you might have cause for celebration, or at least, compensation.
The New Zealand government has taken the unusual step of allowing bumped passengers to claim compensation from the airlines for overbooked flights covering the past two years.
Perhaps not surprisingly, airlines flying within New Zealand are not openly advising overbooked passengers of their more generous rights under the country's Civil Aviation Act (Part 9b). One passenger bumped from an ANZ flight over the 190 mile Christchurch-Wellington route last month was handed a NZ$6 (GBP2.13) coffee shop voucher to compensate for a delay of a couple of hours. Passengers on other routes have been offered more, but the maximum ANZ payout at present appears to be a NZ$100 (GBP35.57) travel voucher.By comparison, in the EU a bumped passenger flying a similar route is automatically entitled to receive Euros 125 (GBP84.71) in cash for a two hour delay rising to Euros 250 (GBP169.43) thereafter (of course claiming it is a different matter).
Says New Zealand's Consumer Affairs Minister, Judith Tizard, "There's good news for consumers who have checked in on time but have been bumped or delayed. 'Delay' includes being bumped but it also covers flights that have been delayed or cancelled because of internal issues such as rostering. Airlines are liable to pay compensation to passengers – up to 10 times the price of their ticket, or the actual cost of the passenger's delay, whichever is the lesser."
The problem, admits the minister, is that "ANZ and Qantas referred to out of date legislation in their terms and conditions of travel. This may have led consumers to believe they did not have any rights."
ANZ admits it overbooks to compensate for the 'no show' factor. Says a spokeswoman in London, "We have a robust compensation programme in place which complies with the Civil Aviation Authority Act in New Zealand covering consumer regulations and using these guidelines we compensate passengers on a case by case basis."
However, ANZ is not prepared to reveal what the guidelines or the amounts of compensation might be.Continues Judith Tizard, "Customers who have been bumped should claim compensation from the airline. If it refuses to pay then they can take their claim to the Disputes Tribunal."
But the news is of scant comfort to overseas travellers who may have no intention of visiting New Zealand in the near future. Dealing with a local tribunal from overseas may cost more than the value of any compensation.
For more information go to the official website of the New Zealand government at beehive.govt.nz.
Report by Alex McWhirter