Regulatory authority asked to toughen up on Air Pacific

31/10/2008 12:06

The Consumer Council of Fiji wants the regulatory authority responsible for the affairs of the airline industry in Fiji to toughen up on Air Pacific’s ‘mistakes’.

Last week the Council had highlighted how Air Pacific misled consumers by advertising cheap $17 Pacific Sun ticket prices without disclosing the costs to be paid for taxes and surcharges that is reflective of the real cost of a ticket. A $17 ticket price turned out to be an exorbitant $109.50 return flight from Suva-Nadi route.

Air Pacific’s only reaction came in the form of an apology following the exposure of the misleading advertisement by the Council. Why is it that the regulatory authority has been allowing Fiji’s national carrier to get away with a simple apology for such mistakes?

The Council puts down these mistakes not only as unfair and deceptive trade practice but also misleading and greatly inconveniencing consumers who desire to use the airline’s services. These consumers are further unable to make informed decisions for their travel plans given that vital information is left undisclosed.

It is time now that the regulatory authority wakes up to address the issues raised by consumers against Air Pacific. Shame on the regulatory authority for failing to follow the proactive steps taken by its counterparts in overseas countries. For example, QANTAS was fined $20million by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) after being caught in a price fixing cartel with British Airways.  In June 2006 Air New Zealand was ordered to pay $600,000 in fines and nearly $65,000 in costs after the Commerce Commission prosecuted the airline for misleading customers about the real price of its airfares. The airline has since then undertaken to move to using all-inclusive prices when advertising for both international and domestic airfares. These are learning examples that the airlines regulatory body in Fiji can make reference to and action upon.

Moreover, overseas airlines such as QANTAS has dropped their fuel surcharges to benefit the Australian consumers after the international price in oil and jet fuel prices fell. However, the same is not happening by Air Pacific here because they are largely left to regulate themselves.

For example, A Fiji resident desiring to take a return travel to Auckland would pay the ticket prices of $1,180.20 with taxes included. Air Pacific says that it is helping consumers in Fiji, but not as far as its ticket prices to Fiji residents desiring to travel overseas is concerned. The Council makes the call for an immediate review of the current legislations relating to airlines in Fiji so that consumers are seen to benefit and be protected when using the services an airline company.