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ATIA tells Senate inquiry a revolution is needed

With international fares from Sydney in 2023 up to 99% higher than pre-COVID, and a lack of competition and capacity, the Australian Travel Industry Association (ATIA) has told the  Senate Committee Inquiry into Bilateral Air Service Agreements a revolution rather than a recalibration of Australia’s aviation industry is needed to ensure consumers are better supported.
Among the reforms ATIA believes are critical are:

  • The need to simplify refund rights for consumers where a flight is cancelled and passengers not accommodated on the same day like that present in the EU for statutory compensation in certain instances of delay or cancellation
  • Expansion of Australia’s ‘open skies’ air services agreements from nine to a level comparable with leading aviation markets (US has 100 open skies agreements, Canada 23)

ATIA’s submission shows that significant price increases have not been confined to a specific class of travel, although the growing popularity of premium economy seating has seen even greater price rises for this category. Some of the highest price increases across classes include:

  • Sydney to Hong Kong - Economy –$853 one-way (+81% increase)
  • Sydney to Los Angeles - Economy –$1254 one-way (+67% increase)
  • Sydney to Dubai - Economy –$853 one-way (+64% increase)
  • Sydney to Dubai – Premium Economy – $2224 one-way (+99% increase)
  • Sydney to Doha - Premium Economy – $959 one-way (+72% increase)
  • Sydney to Singapore - Premium Economy – $1057 one-way (+59% increase)
  • Sydney to Doha – Business/First - $3165

ATIA is calling for a reshaping of the way decisions are made about which airlines are allowed in fly to Australia so that the benefits and impact on travellers is included in the ‘national interest’ requirement. ATIA is also asking for more transparency in this process including the provision of written reasons.
ATIA CEO Dean Long appeared before the committee alongside ATIA Vice Chair and Flight Centre Global MD Graham Turner.
A copy of ATIA’s submission is available

Quotes attributable to ATIA CEO Dean long
“Until consumers are at the heart of decisions being made about which airlines fly in and out of Australia, and it’s not just about the impact on airlines, we won’t see improvement. The current approach was born in 1944 and it’s frankly outdated.”
“Aviation is more than airlines and airports and with 70% of all international travel conducted by Australians booked through our members, we need to be consulted in order to get these settings right. In the 12 months to August 2023, over 10 million tickets worth nearly $14 billion were issued by Australian travel agents. We know where the pain points are because our members are continually fixing up the problems created by the cancellations and delays and refund/credit issues."
“Australians turned to travel industry professionals to help them navigate the multiple challenges of managing COVID impacted travel, credits and refunds. Consumer frustrations due to difficulties accessing credit and refunds have often been borne by travel agents even though the policies are controlled by the airlines. Without a strong consumer protection framework that is fit-for-purpose in the aviation industry - like that present in the EU for statutory compensation in certain instances of delay or cancellation - Australian consumer outcomes will remain sub-optimal.”

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