Etihad updates COVID policy, offers refunds

ACCC welcomes Gulf carriers decision to reimburse coronavirus cancelled tickets

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has welcomed a decision by Etihad Airways to offer refunds to consumers who bought tickets with the airline in Australia which were subsequently cancelled due to the pandemic.

Passengers and travel advisors in Australia are being informed of the decision, which provides those that sought a flight credit the option to select a refund for a cancelled flight.

Etihad has confirmed it will contact consumers who booked directly with the airline and Australia-based travel agents to inform them that affected consumers can elect to receive a refund for a cancelled flight.

For background, the ACCC said that in late March 2020 Etihad issued a COVID-19 rebooking policy that had not provided customers who purchased tickets in Australia with the right to a refund for flights that were scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic. A few days later in early June, Etihad updated its policy, extending the offer of refunds for flights departing from Australian ports.

Refunds had been available for flights departing from other countries and regions, including the US and European Union.

Etihad Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner

“Following recent engagement with the ACCC’s COVID-19 Taskforce, Etihad has now further revised its policy by offering refunds to all consumers in Australia who purchased tickets, regardless of where their flight was scheduled to depart from,” the competition regulator said.

Etihad’s conditions of carriage state that a consumer can elect to receive a refund in the event that Etihad fails to operate their flight reasonably according to schedule, for any reason.

“We are pleased that Etihad is fulfilling its obligations under its conditions of carriage by offering refunds to thousands of Australian customers with cancelled flights,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“Etihad’s revised policy, and its decision to also offer refunds to consumers who weren’t previously advised of their right to a refund, should serve as a model for other airlines.”

“Consumers who believe they are entitled to a refund because they booked their fare while in Australia and who are not contacted by Etihad or their Australian travel agent by 7 August 2020 should contact the business that sold them their ticket,” the regulator added.

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