Consumer NZ says Air New Zealand's refusal to give passengers refunds for cancelled flights means a law change is quickly needed.
In a statement, Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said the non-profit organisation met with Air New Zealand today to discuss the airline only providing credits for flights cancelled due to Covid-19.
“There are many loyal Air New Zealand customers who will be extremely disappointed by the response. The only way to fix the problem is to change the law so consumers aren’t left in this situation again,” he said.
While Mr Duffy said Air New Zealand has maintained its position over refunds, he says it "acknowledged some customers were in genuine financial hardship and says it will provide refunds in these cases".
Consumer NZ has also asked the airline to provide better information on its website about rights to a refund for EU and US flights, according to the statement.
Air New Zealand agreed to relook at claims from consumers provided incorrect information about their rights to refunds or credits, Consumer NZ says.
It comes after a Fair Go story last night revealed refunding everyone who has a booking would cost Air New Zealand “close to $100 million” right now, according to an airline executive.
“Undoubtedly, it would be a much more simple process for us, but we're trying to survive as an airline,” said Air NZ chief revenue officer Cam Wallace.
Mr Wallace said hundreds of thousands of passengers with non-refundable fares have been offered credits with the airline.
Mr Wallace confirmed to Fair Go that contact centre staff can grant refunds on compassionate grounds. So far, they have done so for just a fraction of those offered credits.
“We've got a number of customers who’ve had changed financial circumstances. Where people can no longer travel - they may have lost their jobs, there might be a number of reasons - we've refunded about two-and-a-half thousand of those special cases,” said Mr Wallace.
He also cleared up confusion reported to Fair Go by viewers and airline customers.
• They can make a claim for any taxes back and will have these refunded, with the balance still available as an Air NZ credit.
• Any flight leaving from an airport in the European Union would be subject to EU rules - meaning that leg home as far as the next airport on the journey would also be fully refundable, with the rest of the flight held in credit at Air NZ.
• Extras such as upgrades, extra legroom or flash Air NZ features such as SkyCouch will also be credited back. Some customers say they had been told those were just gone, non-refundable.
• A new system will be ready in July so passengers with credits can see what they have and use it online, easing pressure on call centre staff.