Coronavirus: Consumer NZ wants clearer refund, credit conditions for Air NZ customers affected by cancelled flights

Consumer New Zealand is calling on Air New Zealand to clarify its refund and credit conditions for flights cancelled due to COVID-19.

Grounded passengers have until the end of this year to use their credit, but with borders not predicted to fully open until next year, ticket holders want extra time or a refund.

Jon Duffy, Consumer NZ CEO, says with borders still closed, people are getting anxious.

"They are getting worried they will have to make a decision about booking flights. They can't really fly anywhere at the moment, so there is a lot of uncertainty that Air New Zealand could allay with a bit more communication."

Consumer NZ wants the credit deadline extended, as well as a more generous refund policy.

Currently, refunds are given for certain tickets to America and Europe or on compassionate grounds which many passengers do not meet.

"While they may not meet Air New Zealand's definition of hardship, their circumstances might mean it's not convenient to fly anymore and they should be given a refund," Duffy says.

Earlier this week, Air NZ CEO Greg Foran told The AM Show handling refunds was a low point for the airline.

"We didn't handle the credit situation and I have been upfront about the fact that I wish we had communicated that better."

In fact, it made Air New Zealand the most complained about company to the Commerce Commission in June last year with 329 complaints. Since then another 80 have been made to the Commission.

Greg Foran.
Greg Foran. Photo credit: Getty Images

But Air New Zealand doesn't have to give refunds. Aviation law says a carrier or airline "is not liable for delay" if it "was made necessary by force majeure", which is unforeseen circumstances.

It has previously said refunding all tickets would put the company into financial difficulty.

"No one wants to see Air New Zealand topple over but we think that they should be fair with their refund policy and give money back to people who need it," Duffy says.

Air NZ customer Jan-Maree Anderson says she and her husband David are customers who need the refund. 

"I have got a 14-year-old dog that needs his cataracts removed and that's the same fee to get his eyes done," Jan-Maree says.

It will cost them $3000 for that procedure, but that money is tied up in Air New Zealand credit. She says they've asked for that money a couple of times.

"My husband has sent an email asking for a refund and I don't even think we got a reply."

On Friday, Air New Zealand said it was hoping to reveal further details on its fare flexibility soon.