Flight rights

Demand airlines tell you what your rights are if your flight is delayed or cancelled.

Update: Air NZ has updated its website and produced a guide for passengers affected by cancellations or delays. We welcome this progress and would like to see Jetstar do the same. 

If your flight is delayed or cancelled for reasons within an airline’s control, such as staffing, operational or mechanical issues, you have rights under the Civil Aviation Act (CAA). 

But airlines aren’t required to tell you about these rights. Instead, they keep quiet, or worse, provide false or misleading information. And they’re not always upfront about the reason a flight is delayed or cancelled. This makes it almost impossible to work out what you’re entitled to. People are being left out of pocket and airlines are getting away with shirking their obligations under the law. 

Although amendments to the CAA are in the pipeline which may help consumers understand their rights, these changes won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, thousands of passengers will be affected by cancellations and delays.   

Sign the petition

Enough is enough. We want action now. We’re calling for airlines to communicate honestly with passengers about the reason for cancellations and delays, and clearly display their rights. 

Sign the petition to push airlines to clearly communicate your rights when your flight is cancelled or delayed. 

What are you entitled to?

You’re entitled to a refund if your domestic flight is cancelled or delayed due to an event within the airline’s control – for example - staffing and mechanical issues.

When the airline’s at fault, the Civil Aviation Act (CAA) says you’re entitled to reimbursement of up to 10 times the cost of the ticket, or the actual cost of delay, whichever is lower. So, in addition to flight costs, you may be able to claim other expenses, such as meals, accommodation and any additional costs you incur in getting to your destination.

But it’s a different story if the flight’s cancelled or delayed because of bad weather or something else outside the airline’s control, like a mandatory government shutdown. The CAA doesn’t require the airline to refund your ticket or reimburse your costs in these circumstances.

Instead, your rights will depend on the type of fare you bought, and the airline’s terms and conditions. If you bought a refundable fare you’ll be entitled to a refund regardless of the reason for the cancellation or delay. If you haven’t purchased a refundable fare, the airline will usually rebook you on another flight or offer you a credit.

Your stories

Since 2020 we have received hundreds of complaints from New Zealanders who have had their flights delayed or cancelled. It’s time the airlines lifted their game.   

Here are some recent stories from passengers (names changed to protect privacy) who got the run-around from the airlines when their flights were cancelled or delayed. 

Wiremu’s domestic flight was cancelled due to mechanical issues.

Jetstar refunded him $148 but he said his flight cost him $170. He also forked out $187 for accommodation because of the cancellation. Jetstar claimed it wasn’t responsible for the cost of Wiremu’s accommodation.  

Under the CAA, Wiremu was entitled to claim the full cost of his flight ($170), as well as the cost of his accommodation ($187), and any other expenses, up to a limit of $1700, from the airline.  

Kiran booked an affordable flight from Auckland to Queenstown.

Air NZ told Kiran it had overbooked her flight and that she was being bumped because she purchased an inexpensive seat. After waiting on stand-by, Air NZ advised her to book another flight. Kiran booked a flight to Invercargill and hired a car to drive to Queenstown. Air NZ gave Kiran a credit for the cost of her original ticket from Auckland to Queenstown.  

Under the CAA, Kiran was entitled to claim a refund of her flights as well as the additional costs she incurred in getting to Queenstown, including the cost of the car hire and petrol. However, the airline wouldn’t have to pay out more than 10 times the cost of her original ticket.  

Mei was booked on a flight from Brisbane to Christchurch with Air NZ.

She also separately booked a flight from Christchurch to Dunedin. However, Air NZ rescheduled Mei’s return flight (due to reasons within its control) from Brisbane, meaning she’d need to stay overnight in Christchurch and would miss her flight to Dunedin. Mei contacted Air NZ which promised to investigate whether they could cover accommodation costs but suggested she may have to pay change fees to alter the time of her flight back to Dunedin. 

Under the CAA, the airline is required to cover any cost associated with the delay – including the cost of her overnight stay in Christchurch and any cost for changing her flights to Dunedin.    

Roy was due to fly from Auckland to Wellington with Jetstar.

Jetstar sent a text message at 2.42am letting him know the flight had been cancelled due to engineering issues. Roy received a refund for his ticket, but Jetstar refused to reimburse the extra he paid to book a new flight with Air NZ to make it to his meeting. 

Roy took the issue to the Disputes Tribunal. At the hearing, Jetstar pointed to a clause in its terms and conditions stating “we will not be responsible for paying any costs or expenses you may incur as a result of the changed time or cancellation”. The tribunal referee said this term was “of no effect” because the CAA requires airlines to compensate passengers for cancellations or delays within their control. Roy was awarded $479.60 for the extra he paid to book his new flight. 

Jetstar should have reimbursed Roy for his additional costs. He shouldn’t have had to take the airline to the Disputes Tribunal to enforce his rights under the CAA.