Feb 17, 2013

First Annual Report into the Airline Customer Advocate

I welcome today’s release of the Airline Customer Advocate’s first Annual Report covering the six months since its inception on 1 July 2012.

In its first six months, the Advocate received 442 complaints with two thirds resolved to the customer’s satisfaction.

Importantly, the Advocate took, on average, just over 14 days to finalise complaints.

It’s clear from the Annual Report that the independent Airline Customer Advocate has been a great success and complaints are being resolved effectively and quickly – a win-win situation for airlines and their customers.

Flying is today five times more affordable than it was 20 years ago, thanks to greater competition, the growth of low-cost airlines and the proliferation of different ticket types.

But cheap fares shouldn’t mean cheap service. The travelling public have long called for an independent voice to help champion their rights and it is this Government that turned that idea into a reality.

For the first time airline customers have a real alternative when they need their complaints resolved and I’m thrilled the Airline Customer Advocate has been so positively received.

As well as being an independent position, the Advocate is a free service.

I congratulate Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar Airways, Regional Express and Tiger Airways on the cooperative way they’ve worked together to establish the Advocate and their continued support to make it a success.

The top five complaints in 2012 related to:

  • Cancellation/refund request   31%
  • Flight delay or cancellation     18%
  • Fees or charges                        16%
  • Airline websites                           9%
  • Terms and conditions                5%

The Airline Customer Advocate is an important reform of Federal Labor’s Aviation White Paper and continues our commitment to improve the engagement of the aviation industry with the community and consumers. Our other initiatives include:

  • Customer Charters that set out minimum standards for handling complaints and outline clear commitments to offer refunds to passengers in specified circumstances;
  • The Aviation Access Working Group, which has initiated the development and publication of 41 Disability Access Facilitation Plans, covering all of the four major Australian airlines and all capital city airport operators; and
  • Community Aviation Consultation Groups to make sure airports engage with the broader community on issues including noise and airport developments.

Further information on the Airline Customer Advocate and a copy of the Annual Report is available at www.airlinecustomeradvocate.com.au