This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on October 24, 2022 - October 30, 2022
A proposal by the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) that passengers be entitled to a refund even if the cause of the flight cancellation, delay or rescheduling was due to “extraordinary circumstances” beyond the airline’s control is a step in the right direction.
Last week, the aviation regulator sought public feedback on its consultation paper on proposed amendments to the Malaysian Aviation Consumer Protection Code (MACPC). Mavcom’s recommendations include a new provision for airlines to offer a refund in the original mode of payment. This will include flight disruption or service not rendered, regardless of the reason.
Any unrefunded sum by an airline would then constitute a recoverable debt in court without the need for proof.
This sets the tone for a positive customer experience. After all, providing compensation for flights that were cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a bone of contention between airlines and passengers over the past two years. The current code provides that an airline shall not be obliged to pay compensation if the travel disruption is caused by “extraordinary circumstances”.
Thus, during the recent unprecedented pandemic, consumers could not claim refunds in the original mode of payment as airlines were not obliged to do so due to the extraordinary circumstances. But as a gesture of goodwill, some airlines offered consumers the option of either credit or travel vouchers to be utilised for future travels.
However, proponents of refunds believe that consumers are entitled to get their money back, given how these delays and cancellations have been increasing exponentially over the past few years, affecting thousands of passengers.
In fact, Mavcom has been criticised for not doing enough to protect the rights of consumers, with some critics even branding it “toothless” for failing to act against certain airlines.
Finally, there could be a resolution in sight. Let’s hope the enhanced MACPC will offer more protection to consumers when it is implemented in the first quarter of 2023.
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