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Airlines will need to explain why they cancelled your Sydney flight

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Airlines will need to tell customers why they cancel flights in and out of Sydney airport, as an audit into slot hoarding gets underway.
Customers with delayed or cancelled flights in and out of Sydney airport will receive a reason from their airline

Airlines will have to explain the reasons behind cancelled or delayed flights out of Australia’s busiest airport, Sydney.

It comes amid accusations of ‘slot hoarding’ by Qantas and Virgin — when major airlines book as many arrivals and departure spots at popular airports as possible, to maintain priority runway access.

Slot hoarding makes it harder for other airlines to take off and land during peak flying periods. It’s prompted the Government to launch a review into potential slot misuse at Sydney Airport.

Flight slots

Airports have a system where airlines book ‘slots’ for their flights to take off and land.

In Australia, airlines get to keep these slots if at least 80% of scheduled flights go ahead as planned.

Australian slots are managed by the Airport Coordination Australia, a company which former ACCC head Rod Sims said is majority-owned by Virgin and Qantas.

Hoarding

At a Senate inquiry last year, industry experts raised concerns that Qantas and Virgin have more slots than they need. Both airlines have denied claims of slot hoarding.

Professor Ian Douglas from the UNSW School of Aviation has argued the practice stops smaller airlines like Bonza and Rex from scheduling more flights during peak travel periods.

Douglas said slot hoarding has resulted in less competition in domestic aviation and higher airfares for customers.

Disrupted services

Airlines have faced mounting criticism over cancelled and delayed services since a post-COVID travel boom.

In January, the rate of flight cancellations was 3.1%, compared to the long-term average rate of 2.2%.

Less than three-quarters of scheduled flights arrived and departed on time during the month, with Virgin and Jetstar (owned by Qantas) performing the worst out of the major companies.

Virgin and Qantas account for more than 90% of domestic air travel.

Australian airlines aren’t legally obliged to provide customers with a reason for cancelled flights.

Audit

Federal Transport Minister Catherine King said airlines will now need to provide reasons for cancelled or delayed flights in or out of Sydney Airport — where more than 2 million domestic passengers passed through in December.

The government will also commission an independent review of airlines’ slot use and investigate the possibility of “anti-competitive behaviour”. If they’re found to be misusing the slots, they could face harsh penalties.

King warned airlines: “Slots are not your property”.

Response

Qantas said it welcomes more transparency around how slots are allocated at Sydney airport.

“Any improvements… will benefit travellers and have a positive flow on impact to airports around the country,” a spokesperson said.

Virgin said the company has always been “committed to fair slot allocation and compliance”.

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