Consumer watchdog ACCC launches probe into Qantas after TV investigation

The consumer watchdog is officially investigating Qantas after A Current Affair blew the whistle on its flight credit scheme which has left some customers feeling “duped”.

A Current Affair provided the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) with evidence in late-January of what customers claimed was misleading and deceptive conduct.

Qantas admitted to A Current Affair at the time it was jacking up prices for some customers who canceled their own flights and rebooked using credit.

Quantas. (A Current Affair)

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CEO Alan Joyce then denied it was charging more, explaining “you get the exact same as what you’ve paid for”.

Evidence from emails, screenshots and video recordings suggests otherwise, but Qantas has maintained its “rules” are clearly set out on its website.

Longtime customer Sharon Lane said she felt “duped” by the airline and would never fly with them again, after trying to rebook with credit.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. (A Current Affair)
Longtime Qantas customer, Sharon Lane. (A Current Affair)

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“When (the operator) said, ‘You have to pay an extra $200’, I said, ‘Why’, and she said, ‘That’s the cost of the flights now,'” Mrs Lane said.

“I paid $801 return from Sydney to Melbourne for two and I’m in the middle of the plane.

“My colleague at work got on the Qantas flight for the same dates and same time that I’m flying and he can get them for $100.”

Qantas customer, John Hunter. (A Current Affair)

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Another disgruntled customer, John Hunter, canceled his flight after a medical emergency and said he felt Qantas had taken advantage of him on rebooking.

“I paid $1300 for a business class flight from Darwin to Sydney,” he said.

“The best price they could give me was $2100 when I tried to rebook and that was for months and months and months.

“I would have got a refund if I thought for a second they’d do this to me.”

The ACCC is investigating and urges customers to come forward.

Statement by an ACCC spokesperson:

  • The ACCC is aware that consumers are facing difficulties in using credits that have been provided as a remedy for COVID-19 cancellations, and is looking into these reports
  • This has included a survey conducted over the past few weeks to obtain information from consumers about their experiences using Qantas flights credits
  • The ACCC is also engaging with Qantas. The ACCC’s investigation is still ongoing
  • Consumers can report issues all us at https://www.accc.gov.au/contact-us/contact-the-accc/report-a-consumer-issue
  • Consumers who have responded to the survey or have already reported their issues to the ACCC via other means do not need to report their issues again

A message from Qantas group executive Andrew McGinnes:

At the start of the pandemic, we removed a lot of the rules that we had around fares and offered more flexibility for flight changes and cancellations than ever before.

Millions of our customers have been able to successfully change their flight or cancel their booking and put the value of their ticket into a flight credit, with extra flexibility that wasn’t available pre-COVID.

When a customer is looking to use their flight credit and wants to book a more expensive fare than their original booking, a fare difference will apply, which has always been the case.

This is the same principle that applies to nearly all retail products, where a customer couldn’t exchange a cheaper product for a more expensive option without paying the difference.

A fare purchased at the last-minute is unlikely to be the same as one booked months in advance. Limited sale fares, promotions, peak travel periods, and spikes in demand will also impact whether the cheapest fares on a particular flight are still available or have sold out.

There was a huge amount of cheap fares available during the pandemic that were designed to stimulate travel when we had planes and people on the ground that we wanted to get back in the air. Many of our customers were able to take advantage of those cheap fares.

Now we are in a post-pandemic world with more people travelling, the cheap fares are getting booked quickly, and they might not be available on every flight like when travel first returned. Customers can still use their flight credit on a more expensive fare and pay the difference, or they can choose to travel on a flight where their original fare is still available.

Any of our customers who want to check the conditions of their flight credit, can find the terms and conditions in their flight credit email or check online at qantas.com.

Flight credit information: https://www.qantas.com/au/en/manage-booking/credit-vouchers.html.

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