The ill-fated White Island
The White Island volcano tour in New Zealand offered an
incredible experience with more than a hint of danger -
“you'll see the likes of roaring steam vents and ash-soaked
ground as well as deposits of vivid yellow sulphur”.
Two of the badly burnt survivors if the ill-fated tour to
the island on 9 December 2019 were American, so they sued
Royal Caribbean, the cruise line, in Florida where they
could expect to receive a sympathetic jury trial and to be
awarded punitive damages.
But Royal Caribbean has other plans.
It wants to force the all 25 survivors and relatives of
the 22 dead to sue in New South Wales, where there are no
jury trials and no punitive damages. Royal Caribbean may not
be liable at all given that they will use the 'obvious risk'
defence to avoid liability.
This article looks at the current
status of both legal proceedings.
How do ski jet accidents happen?
A survey of five court decisions reveals that 3 were
collisions, 1 was falling off and 1 was a foot amputated by
a tow rope. The Court awarded compensation for negligence in
click on my article.
Making your liability waiver effective
You would all agree that skydiving is a high risk
And that if your business is skydive jumps for the
public, you would agree that you need the best risk warning
and liability waiver money can buy to cover your legal
liability for personal injury?
Skydive Australia did that. Its liability waiver was
But in a recent Supreme Court case, the judge found this
was not enough. The reason was that Skydive did not do
enough to make the jumper aware of the liability waiver. As
a result, Skydive could not rely upon it when sued for an
injury - a broken spine caused by a hard landing.
Fortunately for Skydive, and unfortunately for the
jumper, the judge found that Skydive was not negligent
because it had followed all the correct procedures.
It shows the importance of taking out personal accident
insurance when indulging in high risk activities like
click on my article.
If you injure yourself on holidays the
fine print might take away your claim
Walking along a jetty, swimming at a beach or in a pool,
snow and surf skiing, boating, dolphin and whale watching,
and going on theme park rides are all enjoyable holiday
No one gives a thought about suffering a serious injury,
but injuries happen every day. And when they do, apart from
the pain and suffering there are hospital, medical and
physio expenses, there is time off work and the cost of
carers and helpers.
Who pays for these? Or more to the point, can you recover
these expenses and costs from the owner of the place, such
as the Council, or the operator of the activity?
The first answer lies in the Civil Liability Laws. The
second answer lies in the fine print that the Laws allow the
owner or operator to exclude liability.
The image at the top is the new sign Coffs Harbour
Council has placed at the entry to its famous jetty which
contains many warnings.
The sign was put up after the Council lost a NSW Court of
Appeal case where it was ordered to pay more than $500,000
because its previous sign was not clear enough. That
explains the legalese in the wording!
But in most cases, the sign or warning is clear enough
and the Council or operator is not liable.
For my case summary on the Coffs Harbour Jetty case
Do warning signs take away rights?
Do you look at the warning signs at a beach, park or boat
jetty and wonder if the signs actually protect against
personal injury claims?
The answer could be yes!
See case study#1 boat ramps
If you are looking a refund for an
airfare, watch out for the cancellation fee
Nobody reads a travel agent's terms and conditions ...
until they cancel a flight and ask for a refund.
Travellers quickly discover that lurking in the fine
print are cancellation fees. Not one but two sets of
cancellation fees - the first, the airline's cancellation
fees, the second the travel agent's cancellation fees. What
fees do they charge?
The Airlines: Qantas and Emirates charge a $375 per fare
if the passenger cancels. If the airline cancels a
flight and cannot offer suitable alternative arrangements,
then it does not charge a cancellation fee if the
cancellation is within its control.
The Travel Agents: Flight Centre and Helloworld have
exactly the same cancellation fee policy: Cancellations to
International bookings (excluding Trans-Tasman bookings)
will incur a fee of $300 per passenger per booking in
addition to supplier fees (and credit card fees). The fee is
charged regardless of whether it is the passenger or
the supplier (i.e. the airline) who cancels.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic has introduced a new
factor. That is, travel bans and border closures have
resulted in flight cancellations outside of the control
of both the passenger and the airline.
As a result of Government and consumer pressure, most
airlines have dropped (waived) their cancellation fee. In
the US, the Department of Transport has ordered airlines not
to charge a cancellation fee for flights cancelled because
of travel bans and border closures. In Australia, Qantas,
Emirates and other airlines have done the same.
But what about the travel agents? Flight Centre insisted
upon charging its cancellation fee of $300 until 2 May 2020,
when overwhelming pressure from the public and the
Australian Consumer watchdog, the ACCC, resulted in Flight
Centre waiving its cancellation fee for flights cancelled
because of travel bans and border closures. Flight Centre
will now provide full refunds of airfares.
For more information click on my article
ACCC pressures Flight Centre to waive
cancellation fees on some fare refunds.
For COVID-19 travel refunds, the
ACCC sits on the fence
The ACCC - the Australian Competition and Consumer
Commission - is the Australian Consumer Law watchdog.
The ACCC provides the latest information on consumer
rights, travel and event cancellations in relation to
COVID-19 on its website with a special Q&A section:
My flight, tour or cruise has been cancelled. Am I entitled
to a refund?
Allowing for the fact that it is impossible to lay down
general rules for an industry as diverse as the travel
industry - from flights, cruises, day trips, tours, resorts,
hotels and sports packages - the rules the ACCC lays down
are vague and contradictory. For example:
- If your travel is cancelled the ACCC expects that
you will receive a refund or other remedy, such as a
credit note or voucher, in most circumstances.
- If your travel is cancelled due to government
restrictions, this impacts your rights under the
consumer guarantees. However, you may also have other
remedies outside of the Australian Consumer Law.
Allow me to answer the question Am I entitled to a
refund? in this way:
- If travel is cancelled because of COVID-19
travel restrictions, the consumer's right to a
refund does not apply because the cancellation is
not the fault of the travel supplier.
- The ACCC will allow a travel supplier to issue
credit note or voucher as an alternative to a refund
for COVID-19 cancellation, provided that the
expiration date is far enough in the future for it
to be used.
- If the consumer insists upon a refund, and the
travel supplier is willing to give a refund, then it
is entitled to charge a cancellation fee and/or
retain the travel deposit (in accordance with their
terms and conditions).
For more details on refunds for COVID-19 travel
cancellations, click on my article
My flight, tour or cruise has been
cancelled because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Am I
entitled to a refund?
Do airline cancellation fees and
charge fees annoy you? Help is on its way.
If you want to cancel your flight, for whatever reason,
you pay a cancellation fee. Is a fee of 60% of the fare a
fair fee if the cancellation is more than one month before
If you want to change to another flight, or want change
your booking, you pay a change fee. Is a fee of $80 fair if
you want to change to another flight which had spare seats?
If the airline cancels your flight, can you ask for
cancellation compensation despite the prominent 'no refunds'
notice? Is paid overnight accommodation and meals enough
compensation if the cancellation was the airline's fault?
The good news is that the consumer law watchdog (the ACCC)
is about to change the way airlines charge you excessive
cancellation and change fees if you want to change your mind
about a flight.
The ACCC also wants airlines to change their 'no refunds'
notices, and to give more compensation to passengers where
the airline has cancelled the flight due to the airline's
The ACCC has outlined its position in a Report -
Airlines: Terms and Conditions - and will be engaging with
airlines operating in Australia to change their terms and
conditions. It may even bring some test cases to the courts
on behalf of passengers.
For more information on the report, and to see 6 examples
out of 1,400 complaints the ACCC has received in the past 2
click - Memo to Airlines: It's time to
review refund policies, cancellation and change fees to
comply with the Australian Consumer Law
If a travel agent books an international flight, are they
legally liable if they fail to advise the visa requirements
for the flight destination?
There are some travel professionals who
still think that they can book an international flight, and
leave it to the customer to look after the visa
requirements. They do this even though as travel
professionals, they know that without a valid visa the
customer will be denied boarding on the flight they have
For more details
See Full Article
Australian domestic airlines agree to
an ‘opt in’ model for extra charges
Australian airlines will now use ‘opt in’ choices
in their online bookings, where passengers need to agree to
extra charges being added. Instead of ‘opt out’ choices ,
where the extra charge is added unless the charge is removed
by the passenger.
See Full Article
DOES Airbnb GIVE BOUTIQUE HOTELS AND
B&Bs A COMPETITIVE EDGE?
Traditional hotel chains and large resorts have
long dominated the accommodation industry because of their
strong brand marketing and distribution channels.
But as with so many other industries, the internet is
disrupting the traveller accommodation industry. Through
internet booking platform operators such as Airbnb, Stayz,
eDreams and Bookings.com, the internet is providing small
accommodation providers with easy and cheap access to a
global market for travellers, whether it is for business or
There are four services which Airbnb provides, which give
Boutique Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts a competitive edge over
traditional hotels and resorts, and which allows them to
by-pass the traditional travel agents (brick & mortar or
online) in making bookings:
- Bookings Management
- Payments Platform
- Property Damage & Injuries cover
These services are increasing lodging occupancy and
pricing power for small accommodation providers.
For more information about how Airbnb is empowering Boutique
Hotels and B&Bs to build their business,
See Full Article
IS LUNCH INCLUDED IN MY ALL INCLUSIVE TOUR PRICE?
The words All-inclusive are a powerful marketing
tool which is used by many tour operators, accommodation
providers and cruise lines.
So what does a traveller think when they read this in a
brochure which is labelled All-Inclusive : WHAT'S
INCLUDED? Coach travel throughout ... Six nights dinner, bed
and continental breakfast at the Hotel ...
Is lunch included?
According to a ruling by the UK Advertising Standards
Authority, the traveller was entitled to expect that lunch
was included because that was the overall impression given
by the description.
The lesson is that to avoid giving a misleading
impression, if lunch is not included then it needs to be
specifically stated - Lunch is not included. If nothing is
mentioned about lunch then it is misleading to not include
For more details
See Full Article
ARE YOU A TARGET FOR CONSUMER CLAIMS?
Strategies for travel agents, tour operators, airlines and
cruise ship operators to protect against consumer claims
See Full Article
WHAT DO YOU REALLY KNOW ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE?
Everyone who travels knows a little about Travel Insurance -
especially the benefits.
Many travellers know the small print is there, and hope for
The reality hits when they make a claim – if only they had
kept receipts, if only they had checked the motorcycle
exclusion, if they only spent enough to qualify for credit
card travel insurance, and so forth.
Then there is the claims procedure, and what to do if the
travel insurer refuses the claim.
See Travel Insurance – An Overview
TRAVEL LAW AND THE HAZARDS OF AIR TRAVEL:
E-TRAVEL BLACKBOARD ARTICLE SERIES
(Click on Bullet Point):