Qantas sued by AU consumer watchdog over alleged sale of canceled flights

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking court action against Qantas for the airline’s alleged advertisement and sale of tickets for flights it had already canceled. 

The ACCC alleges Qantas continued to sell tickets to passengers between May and July 2022 for more than 8,000 flights for an average of two weeks, and in some cases for up to 47 days, after their cancellation.

The commission also alleged that for more than 10,000 flights scheduled to depart between May and July 2022, the airline did not notify existing ticket holders that flights had been canceled for an average of 18 days, up to 48 days in some cases.

The ACCC also alleges that Qantas did not update its “Manage Booking” web page for ticket holders to reflect the cancellation.

“The ACCC has conducted a detailed investigation into Qantas’ flight cancellation practices. As a result, we have commenced these proceedings alleging that Qantas continued selling tickets for thousands of canceled flights, likely affecting the travel plans of tens of thousands of people,” ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said in a statement.

“We allege that Qantas’ conduct in continuing to sell tickets to canceled flights, and not updating ticket holders about canceled flights, left customers with less time to make alternative arrangements and may have led to them paying higher prices to fly at a particular time not knowing that flight had already been canceled,” Cass-Gottlieb added. 

The ACCC alleges that for approximately 70% of canceled flights, Qantas either continued to sell tickets on its website for two days or more, or delayed informing existing ticket holders that their flight was canceled for two days or more, or both.

The ACCC provided an instance of a case where ticket holders scheduled to fly on Qantas flight QF93 from Melbourne Airport (MEL) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on May 6, 2022, were first notified of the cancellation on May 4, 2023, two days before the scheduled departure and four days after Qantas had canceled the flight.

Qantas’ statement

In response to the ACCC’s allegations, Qantas issued a statement, crediting a time of “unprecedented upheaval” as a factor for the flight cancellations.

“It’s important to note that the period examined by the ACCC between May and July 2022 was a time of unprecedented upheaval for the entire airline industry. All airlines were experiencing well-publicized issues from a very challenging restart, with ongoing border uncertainty, industry wide staff shortages and fleet availability causing a lot of disruption. We will examine the details of the ACCC’s allegations and respond to them in full in court,” the airline said in a statement.

Qantas removes expiry of COVID-19 credits

Following the ACCC’s announcement that it is taking Qantas to federal court, the Australian flag carrier immediately announced that it will remove the expiry date on COVID-19 travel credits that were due to run out at the end of this year.

Previously, the airline gave its customers until December 2023 to use the COVID-19 credits when booking travel, which they had until December 2024 to complete. 

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