All Collections
Public safety advice
Public safety
Australia flight delays and cancellations
Australia flight delays and cancellations
Sydney and Melbourne airport are among the world's worst for flight cancellations and delays.
Alexander Pan avatar
Written by Alexander Pan
Updated over a week ago

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact upon many industries, and one that is still feeling the effects is air travel. As domestic and international air travel started up again in 2022, Sydney and Melbourne's airports have been crippled with cancellations and delays.

As these delays and cancellations pose potential safety risks and mental distress, we're going to take a look at the situation, what flight passengers can do to prepare for an upcoming flight in this environment, and what to do if a flight has been cancelled.

If you need help or just someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.

What's the situation?

Airlines and airports have struggled with serious problems in 2022 following the resumption of air travel. While air travel has been allowed once again, the COVID-19 pandemic is still having a significant negative impact on airline and airport staff due to employees being stricken with illness, alongside other factors such as weather conditions, police incidents, and staff strikes due to poor working conditions, all of which has contributed to seriously worrying flight delays and cancellations.

Reports show queues stretching several hundred metres long outside of Sydney airport, with waiting times to get through security taking up to three hours or more.

Based on data from the Australian Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics, the percentage of flights arriving on time by all airlines operating in Australia amounted to only 63 per cent. When compared to airports around the world, Sydney and Melbourne are among the worst performing, ranking 597th and 631st respectively out of 665 airports as of August 2022.

I have a flight soon, so what can I do?

As this is a situation that's mostly out of anyone's control, there's only a few things you can do to minimise the risk of problems befalling you and/or your flight:

  • ALWAYS - give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport.

  • CHECK-IN - at the earliest time possible.

  • MONITOR - your flight status and constantly check the airline website for updates.

  • TAKE-OUT - insurance when buying your ticket to cover any unexpected changes or issues. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says airlines don't have to guarantee flight times so this is why travel insurance is important.

What can I do if my flight is cancelled?

If your flight has been cancelled, there are a few avenues you can take depending on your airline, how long the delay is, and what caused the delay. We'll dive into what each Australian airline will do in the event of a cancellation in the next section.

In the event of a flight cancellation, you have certain rights under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL):

  • All your usual consumer rights apply when you purchase domestic flights and international flights departing Australia. Those rights also apply to international flights to Australia where they are booked through the Australian website of an airline.

  • Flights come with automatic guarantees, including services being supplied within a reasonable time (e.g. flight updates, issues, cancellations, etc.).

  • You may be entitled to a refund or replacement depending on the length of the delay, the reason for the delay/cancellation, and whether the airline got you onto a new flight within a reasonable time.

If you're still unhappy about how the airline deals with cancellations or delays, you can:

  • Take notes of every conversation with the airline and contact your travel insurance provider. OR

  • Make a complaint to your state's consumer protection agency, and consider reporting the matter to the ACCC if required.


Qantas will re-book you on the next available flight and give you a meal voucher or reimbursement. If the delay is overnight, accommodation or reimbursement of up to $200 per room booked is provided. A refund is only provided if:

  • Qantas can't give you a suitable alternative arrangement for a cancelled or delayed flight

  • You have to cancel travel completely because of the delay

  • The delay causes you to miss a connecting Qantas flight.

For more in-depth information about Qantas' travel delay and cancellations policy, head over here.


Jetstar will give you a meal voucher or reimbursement if the delay is overnight, and also offer accommodation or up to $150 reimbursement per room.

For more in-depth information about Jetstar's travel delay and cancellations policy, head over here.

Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia will try to transfer you to another Virgin flight or another airline flight to the same destination. If this is unsuitable or doesn't work, you'll need to contact their Guest Contact Centre or your travel agent for credit or a refund.

For more in-depth information about Virgin Australia's travel delay and cancellations policy, head over here.

Regional Express (Rex)

Rex offers refunds, credit or transfer to the next flight.

For more in-depth information about Rex's travel delay and cancellations policy, head over here.

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Image credit: Penny McCall Howard at Twitter

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Did this answer your question?