Excessive fees for changes to on line flight bookings

Often, pre-booked airline fares are paid months in advance (for which we have to pay a fee if a credit card is used). and so it seems to me that if a passenger has to change a date for the booked flights for whatever reason, the fees charged for the change would be more reasonable. I fully accept that if the change is made say within a week before the proposed travel then the fee should be higher but, if the change is requested three months ahead then a nominal fee would be appropriate. I recently booked combined Qantas/Jetstar flights and so was moved around websites from Qantas to Jetstar to complete the booking. I did not notice that with the change the webpage date defaulted to the current date. I know it was my error but immediately on printing the booking confirmation I saw the error and attempted to find a way to make the correction on the Jetstar help chat line. That led no where and there appears to be no avenue to actually speak to anyone at Jetstar so eventually I was required to pay an extra $175 to change a date within 30 minutes of making the booking for the flights.This was close to the cost of the airfare in the first place. I think all arlines are similarly voracious and so there is not much point in moving to a competitor. Is there any consumer body who can exert some influence on this kind of behaviour?


Ha, I’d only just mentioned this on another post, so I’ll cut and paste what I wrote to be included here as well.

I once had a return ticket to fly on Virgin Airlines for a domestic travel journey. This was probably around four years ago now. The flights were cheap, so there were no cancellations allowed. Before making the return journey I had to change the booking. The price to change the ticket to a different flight was horrific. I ended up just buying a new discounted ticket instead which was cheaper than the rebooking fee on the other ticket, even after factoring in the price lost on the abandoned return flight.

Hi @kluk6416, it’s an easy error to make and hefty price to pay. Did you receive any response from Jetstar?

There is an Airline Consumer Advocate, which is essentially an industry-funded mediation service, that may be able to help you get a resolution. Otherwise, your state department of consumer affairs or fair trading may be able to help.

More about your rights when flying and making a complaint.

Hi @kluk6416 - I agree, change fees are outrageous and it’s something we’re looking at at the moment. I might even use your above case study (anonymised of course) as an excellent example of what I would consider an excessive fee.

The good news is, credit card fees should now be at a reasonable level for your booking (1.3% for credit card and less for debit) so no more pesky $8.50 per flight, per person fees with your Jetstar booking.

Thanks for sharing your story and as Brendan has suggested above, it’s worth getting in touch with the Airline Customer Advocate.

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I had a similar experience last year with BA. I had booked a return ticket to London which cost about $2500. I had to make a change to the return part to a couple of days later and was charged $350. More than 10% of the cost of the ticket is just ridiculous. And this is commonplace.

What really annoys is that service has been outsourced to the customer anyway i.e. you book your own flight on-line, download your itinerary, print your own boarding card and check in on-line. What exactly are the fees for? Who is doing any work apart from the customer?


Today, Friday 21 October 2016 I had an unpleasant experience with a Travel Agent.The balance of an air fare ( the flight is not until June 2017) was due. To receive the “special price” the full balance was to be paid after a deposit was made on the 16th October. My plan was to pay $250 on Credit card to recieve the Travel Insurance with my bank and avoid 2% credit card fees then pay the difference on B-Pay. The agent informed me that by paying on B-Pay the money would not be processed until Monday and the full amount was due today. I had been in the office on Monday 17th with my friend to discuss other travel arrangements and at no time was I informed that Bpay had several days delay. There is also NO statement on the back of the documents to advise or remind the customer that there is a delay in B-Pay payments. The wording on the back of the forms states that “payment can be made by B-Pay (only from cheque and saving accounts)” The options were to forget the travel Agent and loose the deposit, go to the bank and withdraw the difference or to pay the total by Credit Card and pay 2% merchant fees. This was unfair, as I feel that the Agent had opportunity and obligations to advise clients about payments, especially since they now have approx. $2000.00 of mine well in advance.

Qantas allow free changes until midnight on the day of booking basically to cover people who made a mistake with the online booking. I have used this service once.

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Thank you for the info on Qantas. I thought that was the case but I was unable to find any way to make a correction with Jetstar even tho I saw the error immediately on printing the booking details.I tried the on line ‘chat’ system but just went around in circles with that. After receiving further input from the Choice staff I have now written belatedly to Jetstar but I don’t hold out much hope there. Just another lesson that ‘you get what you pay for’ and maybe next time I will stick to the main carriers, and double check every step in the booking.

Kel Luke

@irakip could you name the travel agent? We’d like to ask the Australian Federation of Travel Agents about the protocol here and use your travel agent as an example. Our CHOICE Help service noted the following on the Commonwealth bank site regarding Bpay payments:

"If your payment is made on a bank business day before 6pm (Sydney / Melbourne time) it will be debited from your account instantly and processed that day. The biller will acknowledge the payment as having been made that day and should process the payment the next banking business day.

If you make a payment on a weekend or public holiday, or after 6pm (Sydney / Melbourne time) Monday to Friday, the payment will be debited from your account instantly and processed the next business day. The biller will acknowledge the payment as having been made on the next banking business day (this does not include weekends or public holidays)."

So if you made the payment before 6pm, it seems the agent should’ve acknowledged it as being made that day anyway.

I was in their office at 12.00pm, midday on the day the full payment was due.
Travel Agent is;
The Travel Agent is:
Phil Hoffmann Travel
1020 North East Road
Modbury 5092
South Australia

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On the topic of excessive fees, and trickle charging, we booked two tickets with Virgin on 2 October to fly on 5 October.

On checking the credit card statement, there was an additional charge (from Virgin) for $3.25 dated 5 October. Please understand, it is not the amount that we are bothered about. It was the fact that we had not knowingly incurred or expected to be receiving any additional fees, and wanted to know what it was for.

Today we were finally able to ring up Virgin to query what this additional fee may be for. We were told by the call centre representative (in the Philippines) that it was “an additional Booking & Service charge for on-line bookings”.

I put it to the call centre representative (in the Philippines) that this was not legal as there was no mention of this fee when booking the flight and we had payed all the identified fees when booking the seats.

After going & checking with her senior representative supervisor, she said that “this new fee had come into operation on 4 October”. This means it came into effect three days after we booked and payed for the flight.

While waiting for the call centre representative to return to the phone, I found a $3.25 payment surcharge entitled SURCHARGE DOM CC on my electronic receipt. (If I calculated correctly, this was a 1.3% surcharge on the $250 for the two tickets.)

I informed the call centre representative about that charge and that this could mean that they were double charging me (not being clear on how the new charge was different to the cc surcharge). The representative wasn’t clear on the difference either and advised that she didn’t have the authority to check back to see the charges we were levied when booking the seats. So she asked me to write to the Virgin Australia Customer Relations Team. I suggested that they should be contacting me, instead of me chasing.

After checking again with the senior representative, I was advised that they were not allowed to do put in feedback on our behalf as the feedback needed to be in our words. To this end, I was provided with the direct email (virginaustraliacustomercare@virginaustralia.com).

I am writing to them outlining the issues I have (with the understanding that I don’t remember mention of the fee):-

  1. If the fee was advised when booking as being levied for travel from 4 October, then the fee should have been charged when booking the seats, not retrospectively.
  2. If it wasn’t mentioned or wasn’t clear it was based on flight times and not booking times, then the fee should not have been charged.
  3. If the quantum of the fee was not explicitly stated, it should not have been charged.
  4. If it was not clearly stated what the fee was for, it shouldn’t be charged for.
  5. Coupled with this lack of is clarity the possibility of double charging.
  6. I have issues with Virgin deducting money from our credit card without advising us, and without us giving explicit consent.

I suppose that this is Virgin’s response to the curbing of excessive credit card charges. I will advise what happens.

In the meantime, beware of the new additional fees when booking tickets.


Thanks @meltam - let us know how you go!

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Gotta say, I might not like everything about Qantas, but that same day free change has saved me a few times.


Highlighting the good service there. I don’t know any other airline that does it and Qantas deserves the credit, great policy.


Hi Southerton,

Thanks - good to know. In my case even tho I had made my Jetstar booking via the Qantas webpage, Jetstar are saying that it was a Third Party booking and that I should take complaints back to the Third Party. However, I am sure Qantas would then be saying it’s a Jetstar flight you will have to take it up there. A nice circular argument I am sure. In any event, it again proves you get what you pay for and in future I will be seeking to make any flight bookings with VA or QF codes.


If you “made my Jetstar booking via the Qantas webpage”

I think the free change still applies. from the Qantas website the only condition seems to be:

The policy only applies to bookings made at qantas.com. Only change and service fees will be waived. If the new fare is a higher value, the difference is payable by the customer. Changes are subject to availability.

Thanks again southerton but I fear it is far too late. I made the mistake with the on line booking but noticed it as soon as I printed the confirmation for flights two months ahead. My complaint was that a fee of $195 for a date change request within minutes of the booking was excessive. Such fees are clearly meant to be a deterrent and I have duly learned the lesson. I will make on line bookings in future with great care and only with airlines that offer a free change in details for a short time, or a more reasonable fee… Seems at the moment that is only Qantas.

OK. got it sorted.

For your information, Virgin Australia Customer Care wrote to us that: "Further to your concerns; I would like to advise that the actual surcharge dollar amount is only shown on Payment page once the user selects a form of payment. We can’t show it beforehand because we don’t know what form of payment the user will select and also it’s a percentage value.

Booking and Service fee for credit card, debit card and PayPal bookings is per person per booking and is non-refundable. The Booking and Service Fee covers a range of costs, activities, fees and charges in relation to the booking, including (among other things) the reasonable costs of accepting card payments.

The CC surcharge of 3.25 is a calculated amount of 1.3% per passenger of total fare. Calculation: 125 x 1.3/100 x 2 and I can confirm that it was charged correctly."
(italicised by me)

In other words, Virgin included the credit card surcharge onto the flight booking & charges page, but did not actually charge it when we paid for the tickets. The $3.25 for the surcharge was charged separately. This led to the confusion.

I think that 1.3% surcharge on total fare times the number of passengers is excessive for the following reasons:
Firstly, the ACCC guidelines (https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/prices-surcharges-receipts/credit-debit-prepaid-card-surcharges) give and indicative 1-1.5% surcharge as a guide. I very much doubt that the actual cost to Virgin is near the 1.3%. It is more likely they picked the mid point in the guidelines.
Secondly why is it per passenger? How can having more than one passenger increase the cost the bank charges for the transaction? Why not as a percentage of the final amount? Would you accept this from a taxi or ride sharing service?
Thirdly, what are all the other fees & charges (“a range of costs, activities, fees and charges in relation to the booking”)? Why are they not delineated separately so consumers know what is being paid for. Wouldn’t they already be included in the cost of the airfare?

Would we accept this sort of obfuscation from any other industry?

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Tonight, me and the Mrs had a look at the flights that we’d booked last year for our overdue family holiday which is coming up in April this year, and the Mrs decided that the seats I’d picked weren’t the best for all 6 of us.

So I reluctantly hit the change seats buttons and with each seat change, Jetstar added a fee of $6 to a list at the right of the page. I’d already paid $6 per seat as a “bonus extra” when I first booked the tickets as Jetstar don’t factor in the seat price when you initially choose your flights, or at least they didn’t when we booked the things last year. So I wasn’t too happy to find out I’d have to pay for them again simply because I wanted to change where we all sat in the plane.

By the time I’d picked 6 new seats on both the initial flight and the return flight, I’d wracked up a bill of $72 and a button had appeared to allow me to confirm the seats. Also, under the total amount for $72 there was another number that said the amount owing was $0. Did I owe Jetstar $72 or $0? Would the $0 turn into a $72 after I’d confirmed the seat changes via the big button?. After confirming the seats, Jetstar emailed me a new itinerary, and then charged me nothing extra… so I can’t complain about this one. Sorry.

It was a strange experience though. I’d already paid for 6 seats on both flights at $6 a pop when I first made the bookings yet the seat allocation site I visited tonight quite clearly stated in large unfriendly letters at the bottom of the page that I hadn’t selected any seats yet and if I failed to do so then I would be at the mercy of the Jetstar Booking system which would give me a random set of seats come check-in time. This really didn’t make any sense because it was also quite clearly showing me which seats I’d previously chosen and paid extra for during the initial booking.

Anyways, after all the confusion generated by the Jetstar website, we managed to successfully change our seats for no extra charge, which was a pleasant surprise for once.


United is often used as the butt for jokes, sometimes the poster for bad service, but this year they have stopped expiring flyer miles, and now are stopping rips offs for US domestic flight changes. I doubt international will follow soon since dealing with multiple countries security systems is rarely easy, especially this century.

If only Qantas, Jetstar, Rex and what is left of Virgin would follow suit. I know, dreaming. But finally a precedent in place far away.