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Rebooking Boeing 737 Flights: What Rights Do Australian Passengers Have?

Rebooking Boeing 737 Flights: What Rights Do Australian Passengers Have?

Passengers who have flights booked on Boeing 737 planes have every reason to be concerned - but changing their flights may be easier said than done.

12th March 2019

Update: Australia, France, the United Kingdom, the European Union and a host of other countries have since grounded the Boeing 737. Notably, the United States and Canada are yet to follow suit.

In the wake of two fatal air crashes in which 346 people perished, questions have been raised about the aircraft. What has caused alarm is that these crashes happened in the space of less than 6 months. As more information emerges, it seems possible that faults in the plane caused both crashes.

It is not confirmed yet whether there was a defect in these planes which led to the accidents. However, many airlines are not prepared to take that risk. In fact, both crashes shared similar characteristics. Both crashed within minutes of taking off, and had requested to return to the airport from which they departed before losing contact with Air Traffic Control.

Ethiopia, Indonesia, Singapore, and China have ordered their airlines to cease flying the Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. Over the past few days, other countries (including Australia) have also banned it from flying in or out of their territories. However, the United States has said that they will continue using this aircraft until further investigations are carried out. Further, they have said the ordinary fees will apply for changing or cancelling reservations.

Pending further investigation, it’s no surprise that passengers want to refrain from flying on these planes. Here, we’ll explain what you can do if you want to change your booking, noting that this will only be applicable to Australians with flights booked overseas.

Check your aircraft

If you have a flight booked, check your ticket. Also check with the airline to confirm what model aircraft you will be flying on. This information can be found on the website for the airline you have booked with. However, it’s worth noting that the Boeing 737 MAX has been certified in recent days as being ‘airworthy’ by the US Federal Aviation Administration.

So for now at least, the planes are still deemed ‘airworthy’ in some countries.

Read the fine print

Air travel is one instance where it is always worth reading the fine print. There will be clauses on your booking itself and further details on the website of the airline. If you booked your flight through a third-party application, it’s also important that you check their terms and conditions.

The terms and conditions will state whether (and what) fee is payable for changing or cancelling a reservation. Ordinarily, there are fees attached to changing a flight booking, especially where little notice is provided. However, some airlines have a degree of flexibility – and tickets can be purchased that allow for changes.

Where your terms of travel don’t allow for changes, it will be hard to alter your flight without paying a fee. If the fee is exorbitant and makes up a significant portion of the original fare, you can lodge a complaint to the ACCC. If you still want to change your flight, make sure you find out what model aircraft will be making the journey.

Raise your concerns with the ACCC

Passengers who are concerned about the terms of their booking should contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Further, a consumer lawyer can help clarify what the terms in your booking mean. A report from 2017 noted passenger concerns with the way airlines treat consumers. It is important to note that this is still an area under close scrutiny.

Have more questions? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest legal marketplace.

Jackie Olling

Jackie is the Content Manager at Lawpath and manages the content team. She has a Law/Arts (Politics) degree from Macquarie University and is an admitted solicitor in the Supreme Court of NSW. She's interested in how technology can help shape the future legal landscape.