Qantas' grounding of all flights has left customers scrambling for alternatives to existing bookings. Assuming you can find a flight with other carriers, what are your options for getting a refund?
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We covered this territory fairly broadly in our first post about the crisis, but Qantas had made more information available since then, so it seems worth breaking the options down in more detail. (We'll update this post if more information comes to hand.)
Regardless of your circumstances, one thing to bear in mind: getting through to Qantas on the phone takes a long time, and right now that's the only way to organise refunds. Be prepared for a long phone wait, and make the call from a landline if at all possible. (That's assuming you can even get through — I've mostly been getting engaged signals.)
The big detail to remember is that you have more options refund-wise once your flight definitely isn't happening. Qantas has said the grounding is indefinite, but is essentially processing flights in 24-hour blocks. Right now, it has only confirmed refund conditions for flights up until the end of October 31. If you've got a flight on Friday, chances are you'll be told to contact the airline again closer to flight time — which will be, obviously, a really annoying outcome after waiting hours for anyone to talk to you.
My flight has been cancelled. Will I get a refund?
Qantas has said that it will offer changes or refunds on all cancelled flights (which, at this writing, is up until October 31). You have the option of also holding that credit for use on a future flight, but I suspect that will be a less popular option. What it isn't offering is reimbursement of associated expenses (so if you've got a cheap hotel booking you can't cancel, you're unlikely to see that money as far as I can tell).
I've managed to find an alternative flight. Will Qantas pay for it?
When flights have been cancelled, Qantas' site says it will "reimburse the difference between the cost of the customer's alternate ticket (in the same class of travel) and the value of their refunded Qantas ticket". You'll undoubtedly have to pay up front and then hit Qantas for the money later. Update: Here's the refund application form.
I'm stuck away from home. Will Qantas pay for my flights and accommodation?
As we mentioned yesterday, Qantas is sourcing accommodation for passengers who have already commenced their journey, and offering them $100 a day in "reasonable expenses" (essentially, food and phone calls). Passengers who haven't flown yet have to find their own accommodation, but will be offered reimbursement on hotel costs up to $250, plus the $100 expenses claim. Update: here's the expenses claim form.
I want to cancel a future booking with Qantas because I don't trust the airline anymore. Can I get a refund?
We covered this issue back when only intermittent flights were being affected by industrial action, but the answer remains the same: generally speaking, you'll only get refund options once a flight is actually cancelled. Since flights in the future haven't yet officially been cancelled (and now won't be for at least three weeks for industrial reasons), the grounds for a refund (in purely contractual terms) are pretty iffy.
Do I have to lodge a refund request straight away?
Qantas says it will accept refund requests up until January 31 2012. That means if you've already made alternate arrangements, you might want to wait for a while before hitting the airline for the money to avoid massive phone waiting. Of course, if you're assuming Qantas is going to disappear altogether, you might be seeking your money more urgently.