Sorry, not sorry: Qantas mounts defence against deceptive conduct claims

While offering plenty of mea culpas in recent weeks for falling short of customer expectations, Qantas is strenuously denying allegations that it is guilty of selling tickets on so called 'ghost flights'. Adam Bishop reports.

While fully accepting it had previously let customers down during the post-COVID restart  – especially with high cancellation rates – Qantas has issued a detailed defence against claims the carrier had been deliberately selling tickets on flights that it had no intention to operate.

The ACCC initiated legal action in the Federal Court of Australia against Qantas two months ago, alleging the airline had engaged in “false, misleading or deceptive conduct” by advertising tickets it knew had already been cancelled, but in a written defence of the allegations published this week, Qantas claimed the consumer watchdog is ignoring the “fundamental reality” of selling air tickets to the public.

“While all airlines work hard to operate flights at their scheduled times, no airline can guarantee that. That’s because the nature of travel – when weather and operational issues mean delays and cancellations are inevitable and unavoidable – makes such a guarantee impossible,” Qantas said in a statement on Monday.

Citing its obligations under consumer law, Qantas insists the only promise it needs to fulfill with customers is to get them on a flight “as close as possible” to the flight time they booked, so long as it is at no additional cost.

In cases where that’s not possible, Qantas said offers a full refund to customers.

In mounting its defence, the carrier said that 100% of impacted domestic passengers were offered same-day flights departing prior to or within one hour after their scheduled departure time.

It added that 98% of impacted international passengers were offered reaccommodation options on flights within a day of scheduled departure dates, while in most cases, its customers were rebooked on alternative flights weeks or months ahead of when they were actually due to travel.

“We acknowledge there were delays and we sincerely regret that this occurred, but crucially, it does not equate to Qantas obtaining a ‘fee for no service’ because customers were reaccommodated on other flights as close as possible to their original time or offered a full refund,” Qantas noted.

But many travellers and agents will likely be sceptical of the idea that customers aren’t purchasing specific seats on specific flights, and rather are buying a “bundle of rights” to fly.

The airline appears to be defending its actions on multiple fronts as well, while on the one hand claiming its handling of sales was the reality of commercial flight sales, and on the other blaming system limitations for any failures.

“Due to system limitations and the sheer number of flights involved, we couldn’t remove these flights from sale automatically while also providing impacted customers with alternative flights.

“Given these flights were being cancelled well in advance of travel, we wanted to offer our customers alternatives rather than the uncertainty and frustration that would have existed if we had simply pushed through the cancellation in our system before we were able to offer alternative flights to get them to their destination.”

MEANWHILE Qantas is adding another direct service between Australia and Europe with the launch of a new route between Perth and Paris, just in time for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games and European summer.

Taking off in July, the service will add 75,000 additional seats to and from Europe each year.






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