Get a Refund ($60 AUD Less Fees) of Australian Passenger Movement Charge - 50% off Fees for Cheapies Members @ Writeforyourright

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I'm a consumer-rights fanatic and, as a flying enthusiast, nothing gets me more fired up than a flying-related consumer rights issue.

I've recently been swotting up on the AUD $60 'passenger movement charge' that the Australian government charges travelers departing Australia. I wanted to explain what I've learned. Fair warning, this post is about as long as boarding on a full A380.

I've set up a service to help folks who are entitled to a refund to make their claim. I'm offering Cheapies members 50% off our fee to lodge and process the refund application - just pop a note in the webform or send us an email, and we'll apply the reduced fee when we pay out your claim.

You can make your own claim, but we try to:

  • simplify the process - we know how to set out your claim, and how to respond when the the first answer is 'no';
  • cut the cost of receiving your refund - our fees are lower than the administration fees charged by airlines, and we can usually pay claims out in your currency - saving you hefty bank transfer fees.

Passenger Movement Charge is refundable in a whole bunch of situations. Here are a few:

  • If the departure did not take place - this is usually the simplest claim to get approved.
  • If a child under 12 years old was mistakenly booked on an adult ticket and Passenger Movement Charge was paid. (In fact, Airasia accidentally did this for years until a smart cookie in Darwin caught on.)
  • If you are a transit passenger. These claims can get quite complicated, so airlines may be reluctant to issue a refund.

You can apply to some airlines directly - but policies vary and fees often apply

  • In general, you can apply directly to your airline for a refund of passenger movement charge. However, many airlines charge (or reserve the right to charge) hefty administration fees. For example, Jetstar's fee is $50 (an eye-watering 83% of your refund).
  • Some airlines are willing to process straightforward refund claims for free. Air New Zealand have advised that they do not charge an administration fee. If your airline is one of the few that will do it for free, then this will generally be your best option! Plus, you may also be able to get other fees back too.
  • You may have some difficulty persuading customer service representatives from some airlines that you are entitled to a refund, or the representative may not understand that Passenger Movement Charge is refundable even on a non-refundable base fare. Singapore Airlines is one such airline, having told us that it is unable to issue refunds of Passenger Movement Charge on a non-refundable fare.

Also, you can do it yourself - it just takes time, and the patience to follow up if the Government ignores your email.

  • The Australian Government says on their website that "A request for refund should be made directly from the carrier."
  • It's (kind of) a lie. Regulation 6 of the Passenger Movement Charge Collection (Recovery and Refund of Charges) Regulation 2013 says a person entitled to a refund can apply directly to the Aussie Government for a refund.
  • We sent a bunch of emails to the Department of Home Affairs arguing this point, and they eventually conceded (begrudgingly AF) that "the Department of Home Affairs can also consider applications for a refund of PMC."

If you've made it this far… well, you probably need a beer. Instead, here's an explanation of the meaning of 'transit passenger' - if you're minded to really have a fight.

  • The approach that the Australian Government - and most airlines' booking software - seems to take is that a passenger who transits on a single booking via Australia and stays airside (i.e does not clear immigration) is not required to pay Passenger Movement Charge.
  • Despite this, many airlines' booking software will levy Passenger Movement Charge where an airside transit occurs across two calendar days. (e.g. fly AKL-MEL and land at 23.30, then leave MEL for SIN at 01.30, two hours later but on a different calendar day).
  • Also, airside-only transits made up of two separate tickets (either on one airline or two) will usually attract Passenger Movement Charge in the airline booking software because the system is unable to take the separate booking for the incoming flight into account when deciding whether or not to charge Passenger Movement Charge.
  • Further, landside transits are potentially within the meaning of 'transit passenger'. This point does not appear to have been tested to date, but we are very eager to try it out.

Landside transits

  • Airlines, and (as far as we know) the Australian Government, seem to take the view that a person who transits landside is not a transit passenger.
  • However, "transit passenger" is a defined term in s 3 of the Passenger Movement Charge Collection Act 1978. A person is only a "transit passenger" when they have been "immigration cleared within the meaning of section 172 of the Migration Act 1958".
  • A person who enters Australia at a "port" (which includes an airport) is immigration cleared "if, and only if" the person leaves the port (s 172(1)(a)(iii)).
    Section of the Migration Act 1958 says a port means either a "proclaimed port" or a "proclaimed airport".
  • A "proclaimed port" means (within mainland 'oz, not the external territories) "an airport appointed under section 15 of the Customs Act 1901"
  • Under s 15(1)(b), " the Comptroller‑General of Customs may, by notice published in the Gazette… appoint airports and fix the limits of those airports."
  • The limits fixed for the airports appointed by notice in the Gazette tend to be pretty expansive, often extending beyond the airport's carparks. In all of the cases we have reviewed, the legal boundaries of the airport include the terminal buildings.
  • This means (perhaps we should say 'arguably means', even though we're pretty confident) that a person has not left the port for the purposes of s 172(1)(a)(iii) of the Migration Act 1958 if they've only passed through immigration within the terminal, but have not actually left the airport building.
  • If the person then leaves Australia without leaving the airport, they will have completed their departure from Australia without having (technically) been 'immigration cleared', and would therefore be a transit passenger.
  • Which means, of course, that they'd be entitled to a refund of their sixty bucks.

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Comments

  • +1 vote

    Wow!

    I don't think any of that applies to any flights I have taken unfortunately, but good on you :-)

    One point you might want to add (unless I missed it), is whether there is any time limit for how far back you can go to make a refund claim, and assuming there is, what is that limit?

    Alan.

    • +1 vote

      Thanks, Alan. Someone on Ozbargain asked the same question, so definitely something I overlooked.

      I don't think there is a time limit, but our fee is only payable if the claim is successful - so no harm in trying. Note that PMC was not AUD 60 a few years ago (I think it was $50?), so the claim might pay out less.

  •  

    How much does the service cost?

    •  

      No more than 1/6 of the refund price, and decreases based on the number of refunds in a claim.

      And then a further 50% off that for Cheapies members.

  •  

    Thanks this is awesome! I read the transit passenger part but just wanted to confirm: we were on transit visas, flew from China to NZ via Melbourne, but we left the airport and stayed in Melbourne for 2 days. In this case we are not considered refund eligible as transit passengers because we were "immigration cleared" right? (Transit visas allow us to stay in AU for no longer than 72 hours)

  •  

    Is there any easy way to check if you paid a PMC?

    •  

      Might be listed as a line item on your ticket (sometimes with the code 'AU').

      Otherwise, you could try putting in a similar itinerary into https://matrix.itasoftware.com/ and seeing if 'AU' is listed there.

      Otherwise, if it is an international flight via Oz or departing from Oz, we'll be happy to have a look and let you know our thoughts.

      •  

        Thanks. Will need to see what I can dig up and what it shows. I flew on Emirates ~ 7 years stopping over in Melbourne to Malaysia and back. Did involve a traditional travel agency for booking, but I assume that makes no difference since they just rely on the software. Was a several hour stop over both ways but never left the airport. Actually was flying on a Malaysian passport and lacked a ETA or transit visa, so couldn't leave. Possibly at least one was over midnight, but think both were on the same ticket.

        IIRC all my other flights with a stopover in Australia have been even older Malaysian Airlines ones 'direct' i.e. same flight number/airplane with a stop over in Melbourne for refueling and passengers. So unless someone made a major mistake, would be no PMC. And even if there was, I don't think I have any evidence for most of these. (I'm talking like 16 or more years ago :-P)

  •  

    Great work. Keep it up. We might have a few of these haha, do I have the time to chase them up from years past…

    •  

      Yes. You do! Guess it depends on how much your time is worth, but why would you be on Cheapies if your time was thaaaat valuable ;)

  •  

    Does Sydney not count? Didnt come up as a departure point?

    •  

      It does, but I've just made a mistake. Due to fix that tonight. In the meantime, you can pick another airport and I will make sure it is updated per the ticket uploaded.

  •  

    Im a bit unclear on this, I have taken quite a number of trips to the US and Asia, which flew - Auckland via Sydney/Melb and then onto the destination usually because its substantially cheaper - a few different airlines. Lots of flights with my wife and 2 kids as well.

    How do I tell if im eligible - there is no detail on the confirmations I can see. In all cases we never left the transit lounge - but in most cases were there a very short time, like an an hour or so. Nothing longer, nothing over days.

    Would these be eligible? or not?

    •  

      Pretty unlikely.

      •  

        Ok, thats a shame… have done it more than 10 times for 4 people in the last couple of years alone.. so the key point is transit that crosses days then. That must be reasonably rare - I would have thought unless people are signing up for long transit periods… most in my experience are 1-4 hrs and mostly in the morning.

        •  

          I'll let HomeGardener give the definitive answer, but it sounds to me that, if you had been charged a PMC, then you would be eligible for a refund.

          However, your description sounds like it would be unlikely that you would have been charged one (simple transit within a single day).

          Maybe check your detailed invoices?

          Alan.

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