Nik Long wasn’t too upset when the captain of his London-bound flight made one .
He knew safety came first when smoke was detected in the hold, in what is now believed to be a sensor failure.
“The captain said to us, ‘I’d rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air than in the air wishing I was on the ground,'” he said.
But Mr Long’s understanding of the “unprecedented” circumstance diminished as delays continued.
“It took a long time to figure out what was going on. Unless you were on the floor talking to the staff, you didn’t really know,” he said.
“I think people understand, but being proactive with communication would have helped a lot.”
Nik Long said he wished Qantas staff were more proactive with communication.
The recovery plane, which flew 16 hours from Sydney to the Azeri capital Baku to pick up stranded passengers, experienced further delays before taking off. And when they finally arrived at Heathrow Airport, their luggage wasn’t waiting for them after a ‘rookie mistake’.
“It turned out that the bags hadn’t been re-tagged, so they had all been put in a holding area… We probably have half of our luggage (currently).”
He said he will be in touch after the incident to see what Qantas can do to compensate him and his family, who are currently losing thousands of dollars by missing three days of their ski trip. Hope your travel insurance covers it.
“I think in Australia, we’re definitely at a disadvantage compared to Europe. In Europe, you know where you are, there’s an automatic compensation.
“In Australia, it’s definitely harder.”
Stranded passengers waited in a hotel lobby in Azerbaijan for information on when their rescheduled flight would depart. Source: supplied / Nick Long
In a statement following the incident, Qantas said: “We have apologized and thanked them for their patience while we finalize recovery plans. They have stayed overnight at the Marriott Hotel and provided meals and transportation.”
Qantas added that regular updates were given during the event.
What does the EU compensate its air passengers?
That of the European Union dictates what airlines owe passengers in the event of flight delays or cancellations. It applies to all flights departing from the EU and to all EU airlines traveling within or outside the region.
The flight of Mr. Long leaving Sydney via Singapore and Azerbaijan on an Australian airline is not captured by the plan.
Under the scheme, you are entitled to assistance, reimbursement and a return flight, depending on the length of the delay and the distance of the flight.
Depending on these variables, you could be compensated up to about $950 for the delayed flight and rebooked on another flight.
In any case of delay or cancellation, an explanation must be given to the passenger about alternatives.
For circumstances beyond an airline’s control (weather delays, air traffic delays or political instability), the scheme would not apply. But for mechanical failure, crew-related delays or a late-arriving aircraft, compensation covers it.
How does compensation differ in Australia for nuisance flyers?
Australia’s consumer guarantees are not as comprehensive.
While the EU specifies the length of delay and distance that make someone entitled to compensation (at least two hours on a flight traveling at least 1,500km), Australia has a legal obligation to provide a service within a reasonable time .
As in the EU, the length of the delay and whether it was within the airline’s control impact what is “reasonable”. But there is no single definition of what a reasonable time will be, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) states on its website.
Nik Long said the delays were made worse by a “rookie mistake” of forgetting to re-tag the luggage of passengers on the diverted Qantas flight. Source: supplied / Nick Long
If a new flight cannot be arranged within a reasonable time, an airline must give the passenger the choice of a refund or a different replacement flight, taking into account other airlines.
A customer may be entitled to a refund but, unlike in the EU, it is not automatic, it is at the discretion of the airline and the individual policies found on their websites.
Under the policies of the major airlines Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar, passengers are put on the next available flight or offered a refund.
Australia’s air passenger rights ‘archaic’
The Australian Bar Association recently expressed support for the establishment of a more comprehensive air passenger compensation scheme.
The nonprofit national association of lawyers and academics said the compensation system was more complicated and crowded than it needed to be.
“Rather than Australian passengers having to jump through legal loopholes to get flight delay compensation in the rare cases where it’s available, it’s time for Australia to have its own flight delay compensation regime,” he said spokeswoman Victoria Roy in a statement in October.
“Australia is the only continent-wide country that makes air travel essential, and yet air passenger rights are archaic compared to other jurisdictions such as the UK, EU, US and Canada “.
Ms Roy said more needed to be done under Australian consumer law.
“Many passengers seek legal advice regarding compensation for journey interruptions only to find that the Australian Consumer Law does not adequately protect them.
“There is an urgent need for Australia to step up and develop a compensation regime that is at least equal to the protections offered in so many other jurisdictions.”