The CHOICE survey also found that 10 per cent of the 1078 respondents had problems talking to an airline when trying to use their voucher and eight per cent were forced to use the full voucher for a flight that had a lower value. One in five have been unable to use their voucher.
“Businesses are making it incredibly difficult to claim the value of the voucher back, and Australians are finding it almost impossible to successfully navigate the terms and conditions of their booking,” Mr Price said.
CHOICE has called on governments to introduce rules to ensure people can use a travel credit or get a refund.
“We want to see laws that mean people can use credits just like cash, with the ability to transfer the credit to friends or family, split the credit over multiple bookings and not pay extra unfair fees,” Mr Price said.
Some consumers have also complained of being worse off when redeeming a credit and being charged up to three times as much as the original flight cost when using their credits.
Ms Davey said her $9000 Webjet voucher for what was supposed to have been “our trip of a lifetime together” was initially valid for 12 months. It was then extended until March 2023, but several attempts to use it had failed after flights she booked to Melbourne and north Queensland were also cancelled because of pandemic-related border closures.
“I’ve now got two Jetstar vouchers, a Qantas voucher and $6000 on a Webjet voucher,” she said. “Essentially, we just want our money back.
“I’ve got no problem spending our money in Australia, but with all the lockdowns and border closures, I’ve just given up.”
Maria Turnbull from Melbourne said she and her husband booked a trip to Bali in April 2020, but the flights were cancelled because of COVID-19 border closures. She received credit vouchers and booked a second trip which was cancelled in 2021. She then asked Jetstar for a full cash refund of $1400, but the airline declined.
“We had to use it or lose it,” she said. “So we used it and transferred it to flights for April 2021, and we upgraded and paid $67 difference. They then said we had lost it because of COVID, and we got airline credits again.”
The airline refunded the $67 Ms Turnbull paid for the upgrade and provided a voucher for the remaining credit.
She made several complaints to the airline and aviation ombudsman before giving up on trying to get her money back.“It was exhausting,” she said.
Jetstar said when a flight was cancelled due to COVID-19, customers were contacted with a range of options including a voucher, the option to select to an alternative flight at no cost, or a refund depending on the circumstances.
“Jetstar credit vouchers for flights impacted due to COVID related reasons have been extended to allow booking until the end of 2022, meaning customers have until the end of 2023 to travel (and can be used to book multiple flights and multiple people),” a Jetstar spokeswoman said.
“Jetstar vouchers are issued to the full amount of the original booking, and are not redeemable for cash.”
Online travel agency Webjet extended the expiry date of vouchers for Ms Davies and her father until 2025 on Friday after the Herald contacted it for comment, which it declined to provide.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chair Rod Sims said whether someone was entitled to a cash refund depended on whether a ticket came with specific terms and conditions.
Where the terms and conditions of a ticket sale were specific about a credit voucher being issued instead of a cash refund, this was considered to be legal. If the terms and conditions of a ticket sale were not specific, the ACCC has judged that people were legally entitled to a refund. “Because you entered into a deal, and you didn’t get what you were supposed to get,” Mr Sims said.