From July 2012, Australia will have a new, independent National Airline Customer Advocate to give passengers the extra help and protection they need in getting their complaints resolved.


Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar Airways, Regional Express and Tiger Airways will participate in and jointly fund the position in response to the Government's call in the National Aviation White Paper.


The advocate's main role will be to act as a facilitator and work with the major airlines to address the complaints of any customer who has been unable to resolve them directly.


The office of the National Airline Customer Advocate will be based in a major city at a location unconnected with the offices of the participating airlines.


Flying is today five times more affordable than it was 20 years ago, thanks to greater competition, the rise of low-cost airlines and the availability of different types of fares, classes and service levels.

But cheap fares shouldn't mean cheap treatment.


Passengers are entitled to be treated fairly and decently by airlines.  And part of that service means having their complaints dealt with properly and on time.


Airline customers already have a range of rights under Australian Consumer Law. The National Airline Customer Advocate will complement existing laws and act as a link between passengers and airlines to get complaints resolved.


The advocate will also monitor and report on the major areas where airlines may be letting their customers down, including the number of complaints received and the major reasons for complaints to each participating airline.


As this is an Australian-first, the Gillard Government recognises it will need ongoing review and fine-tuning by airlines, consumer groups and the Government.