From the man­ag­ing ed­i­tor

Travel Bulletin - - CONTENTS - Bruce Piper

You have to ad­mire con­sumer group CHOICE for their cre­ativ­ity, with the launch last month of the air­line com­plaints cam­paign which in­cludes the clev­erly named­ web­site. The pop­ulist ini­tia­tive is sure to garner sup­port from dis­grun­tled trav­ellers, who in this con­nected world take no time at all to vent their on­line spleen at any sort of de­lay. We are an im­pa­tient lot, and CHOICE is cap­i­tal­is­ing on this very hu­man ten­dency by mak­ing it eas­ier than ever be­fore to lodge a com­plaint with the air­lines. The end game for the con­sumer group is to have new laws in­tro­duced which would guar­an­tee mone­tary com­pen­sa­tion for dis­rupted trav­ellers – sim­i­lar to the ar­range­ments in Europe, the UK & NZ. It sounds like a good idea – how­ever on closer ex­am­i­na­tion I be­lieve the cam­paign is some­what mis­guided, and er­ro­neously paints the air­lines as bad guys who do their best to make the life of trav­ellers mis­er­able. CHOICE has pitched it as a way of mak­ing the air­lines fi­nan­cially ac­count­able for de­lays which are in their con­trol, giv­ing them a mone­tary in­cen­tive to do bet­ter. But as most peo­ple in the travel in­dus­try know, the last thing the air­lines want is a de­lay. As well as mean­ing they are in­un­dated with com­plaints, the knock-on ef­fect of a late de­par­ture can af­fect the en­tire net­work – with the en­su­ing chaos cost­ing a for­tune. Un­like the sit­u­a­tion in Europe, which is frankly puni­tive be­cause it pe­nalises air­lines no mat­ter what the rea­son for the de­lay, the CHOICE pro­posal would only re­quire com­pen­sa­tion in the event the prob­lem is due to some­thing within the car­ri­ers’ con­trol. Although dis­rup­tions are com­mon, they are usu­ally due to weather con­di­tions or air traf­fic con­trol, so the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion would not ap­ply. More­over the air­lines also now gen­er­ally of­fer a travel in­sur­ance op­tion dur­ing the pur­chase process, and at least some of the poli­cies in­clude com­pen­sa­tion if a de­lay means the trav­eller misses an im­por­tant event such as a wed­ding or con­fer­ence. I sus­pect a bet­ter so­lu­tion would be a ‘user-pays’ sys­tem where the air­lines of­fer an ad­di­tional in­sur­ance op­tion pro­vid­ing for com­pen­sa­tion in the event of any de­lay. Trav­ellers could se­lect this at their dis­cre­tion, giv­ing them as­sur­ance they are pro­tected, while those who choose not to take up the op­tion also know what they’re in for if things go wrong. If the pro­posed laws cost air­lines more, that inevitably will flow through to higher fares, so the net ben­e­fit to con­sumers over­all will be zero. In the end, travel is an ad­ven­ture and some­times that ad­ven­ture in­cludes dis­rup­tion. If you don’t want to be in­con­ve­nienced, stay at home!

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