Jul 8, 2012

Appointment of Australia’s First Airline Customer Advocate

Today I announce the appointment of Ms Julia Lines as Australia’s first Airline Customer Advocate.

The creation of this independent position means that for the first time, airline customers will be provided with a real alternative when they are unable to resolve a complaint directly with an airline.

Ms Lines brings significant experience to this role, including most recently as the Manager of Complaint Assessments at the Health Care Complaints Commission, where she helped to assess thousands of complaints every year.

Flying is today five times more affordable than it was 20 years ago, thanks to greater competition, the rise of low-cost airlines and the availability of different types of fares, classes and service levels.

But cheap fares shouldn’t mean cheap treatment.

Passengers are entitled to be treated fairly and decently by airlines.  And this means having their complaints dealt with properly and in a timely manner.

The establishment of the Airline Customer Advocate implements another key recommendation of the Government’s Aviation White Paper. An overwhelming majority of the White Paper recommendations have now been implemented or are ongoing initiatives.

I want to thank Australia’s major airlines for working together to turn this recommendation into reality. Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar Airways, Regional Express and Tiger Airways Australia will jointly fund the position.

Airline customers already have a range of rights under Australian Consumer Law. The Airline Customer Advocate will complement existing laws and act as a link between passengers and airlines to get complaints resolved within 20 working days.

The Airline Customer Advocate builds on the Government’s other initiatives to improve industry engagement with the community and consumers, including Customer Charters that set out minimum standards for handling complaints and outline clear commitments to offer full refunds to passengers in specified circumstances.

The office of the Airline Customer Advocate is based in Sydney.

Airline customers can lodge complaints online at http://www.airlinecustomeradvocate.com.au/