I made the mistake of booking a return flight (799 UK pounds = 1550 Australian dollars) from Copenhagen to Melbourne with Air China.

The outbound flight in January was okay, but in March they made a schedule change to my return flight in July - one which did not suit my schedule.

I tried to rebook the flight to go back one week earlier instead. This took ten expensive and time consuming phone calls, and five weeks to succeed - even though they were the ones originally changing their schedule.

Three weeks later I received an email from them apologising that they had to cancel the second leg of the return trip (Flight 1 was Melbourne - Beijing, second leg Beijing - Stockholm, and third leg Stockholm - Copenhagen).

Since I needed to be in Copenhagen on this specific day and I had had enough of their schedule changes and incompetence, I called them and said I wanted to cancel the return flight and get a refund. I was told by two people I would get a full refund, another two said it needed to be calculated, and a third person didn't know. However, everyone I spoke to agreed it would take 7-8 weeks to process before I had the money back in my account.

Everyone failed to mention that in order for the refund to be processed, I needed to be sent a refund form, fill that out and send it back. I only found that out two months later when I called to ask why I hadn't received my refund yet.

The form was then sent to me with the refund amount of US$256.80 (about 345 Australian dollars).

I called back today and was told that the amount was correct because I had already used the outbound flight and this amount is what the return trip was worth. I then said that the very same trip, except the Stockholm - Copenhagen leg (because they don't fly to Copenhagen any more) was $1136.16 on the same date but with a one day lay over in Beijing since the other flight had been cancelled. This was from their own website - which was the one I had originally booked with.

So for a $1550 dollar return trip they only want to give me $345 back, even though the same trip costs $1136 on their website.

My question is: are they allowed to do this? Can I complain?

Trying to email or ask to talk to a supervisor hasn't worked for me, as no one is replying to my emails. Their free phone number connects to somewhere where it's night time and no managers are present, and their other phone number is $2 a minute (last time I called I was on hold for 20 minutes).

UPDATE Hi and thanks for all the replies, I called Air China and again got to talk to someone who knew nothing about and all I got was an email address to write to and in detail explain what had happened, which I did in a nice and factual way. They replied within a few hours saying that after examining my case they had found that my ticket was not purchased through their website so they couldn't offer a refund at all, and telling me to instead contact my local travel agent. I replied immediately saying that my ticket was definitely purchased through their website, I forwarded them the confirmation email and a screen shot of my bank statement which clearly said air China. They didn't reply to that for five days so I emailed them again, and a week later still haven't heard anything back. My flight is suppose to depart in two weeks and I am no closer to getting a refund, in fact they have withdrawn the offer of the $256.80 which leaves me in a really bad situation since I've had to spend $1500 dollars to buy a new ticket with Thai Airways. Surely this cannot be legal what they're doing, completely denying any responsibility even though they were the ones canceling the flight, and now not wanting to reimburse me at all?? Who can I turn to to make a complaint which will lead to getting my money back? Thanks for all your help.

Sincerely Annicka

  • Can you explain what the $1136 trip is exactly? Is it the cost of a one-way trip from Melbourne to Copenhagen?
    – Berwyn
    Jun 10, 2016 at 6:59
  • Ok, I found that $1136 price exactly, so can see it is probably MEL-ARN one-way
    – Berwyn
    Jun 10, 2016 at 7:42
  • Regarding your update. Absolutely you should pursue a claim against Air China. If the company is not responsive, unfortunately this may mean you need to do this after you return home via the courts. If you have a small claims court in your country, then that would be the place to do this.
    – Berwyn
    Jun 23, 2016 at 14:08

1 Answer 1


To summarise: you bought CPH-MEL-CPH on Air China for AUD$1550. After flying the outbound, Air China made unsuitable schedule changes and you cancelled the return flight.

Air China calculated the refund as AUD$345.

You looked up the cost of a one-way flight from MEL-ARN (they no longer fly to CPH) and found it to be AUD$1135 so believe their refund offer is insufficient.

Update: @EdC poitns out in the comments that IATA has a conflicting conditions of carriage that does indeed state you are due the cost of a one-way flight in the case of involuntary refund. I found a second conditions of carriage on Air China's site that states the same as IATA:

11.3 Involuntary Refunds
If the Carrier cancels a flight, fails to operate a flight reasonably according to schedule, fails to stop at a point to which the Passenger is destined or ticketed to stopover, is unable to provide previously confirmed space or causes the Passenger to miss a Connecting Flight on which the Passenger holds a reservation, the amount of the refund shall be:
11.3.1 if no portion of the Ticket has been used, an amount equal to the Fare paid;
11.3.2 if a portion of the Ticket has been used, the refund will be the higher of: the one way Fare (less applicable discounts and charges) from point of interruption to destination or point of next stopover, or the difference between the Fare paid and the Fare for the transportation used;

In Air China's case it looks like they have repriced your return ticket to the cost of a one-way ticket, which is indeed cheaper on Air China. Although I'm not looking at the prices of tickets that you bought since I don't have enough detail, I'm seeing a fare difference of AUD$200-$500 for flights a month from now.

An airline would usually reprice flights to the price of a one-way ticket if you asked for a voluntary refund, which perhaps explains the refund offered. If I were you I would call them again and say you are asking for a refund due to an unsuitable schedule change that they made, not one that you voluntarily asked for. Ask for 50% of the fare to be refunded. Do not mention the cost of one way flights from Melbourne to Stockholm; it is not helpful.

To save money, I recommend you call using a service such as Skype where you can call toll free numbers in other countries for free, or non-toll free numbers for the price of a local call.

Other version of CoC: I located Air China's Conditions of Carriage for refunds

10.2 Involuntary Refunds
10.2.1 If we cancel a flight, fail to operate a flight reasonably according to schedule, fail to stop at your destination or Stopover, or cause you to miss a connecting flight on which you hold a reservation, the amount of the refund shall be: if no portion of the Ticket has been used, an amount equal to the fare paid; if a portion of the Ticket has been used, the refund will be not less than the difference between the fare paid and the applicable fare for travel between the points for which the Ticket has been used, provided that the refund shall not exceed the total fare paid.

It does indeed look like they have repriced it as the cost of a one-way ticket. Your only hope is that it says not less than the difference.

  • 1
    Thanks very much for your prompt and thorough reply, I will call them back again. Just spent over an hour on the phone waiting in line, only for them to close because it was 5 pm and disconnected me.It does indeed look like they have repriced it as the cost of a one-way ticket. "Your only hope is that it says not less than the difference." Where am I looking to say if it says "no less than the difference"? On my original ticket terms and conditions, or elsewhere?
    – NinnaN
    Jun 10, 2016 at 8:46
  • @NinnaN Good luck. I'd recommend being polite and asking nicely. The Conditions of Carriage trump almost anything, so you really want them to be on your side when you quote the "not less than" and ask for 50% as a reasonable refund.
    – Berwyn
    Jun 10, 2016 at 8:49
  • @NinnaN Follow the link in my answer "Conditions of Carriage for refunds"
    – Berwyn
    Jun 10, 2016 at 9:09
  • 3
    @Berwyn - the more generous IATA conditions of carriage might trump Air China's CoC's - see transportrecht.de/transportrecht_content/1145517747.pdf "Except as provided herein, in the event of inconsistency between these Conditions and Carrier's regulations, these Conditions shall prevail" - take a look at 11.3 and see if you agree?
    – EdC
    Jun 10, 2016 at 9:16
  • Very nice @EdC ! I think you should add another answer. It says the higher of the one-way fare to next-stopover, ...
    – Berwyn
    Jun 10, 2016 at 9:23

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