ACCC takes court action over cancelled Qantas flights 

Qantas’s public image has taken another beating with the announcement that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has initiated legal action relating to cancelled flights. 

The ACCC launched the action in the Federal Court yesterday, claiming Qantas engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct by advertising tickets for more than 8000 flights that had been cancelled but not removed from sale.

The ACCC alleges that for more than 8000 flights scheduled to depart between May and July 2022, Qantas kept selling tickets on its website for an average of more than two weeks, and in some cases for up to 47 days, after the cancellation of the flights.

The claims say that for more than 10,000 flights scheduled to depart in May to July 2022, Qantas did not notify ticketholders their flights had been cancelled for an average of about 18 days, and in some cases for up to 48 days. 

The ACCC alleges that for about 70 per cent of cancelled flights, Qantas either continued to sell tickets for the flight on its website for two days or more, or delayed informing existing ticketholders that their flight was cancelled for two days or more, or both.

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

One in four flights cancelled

“We allege that Qantas’s conduct in continuing to sell tickets to cancelled flights, and not updating ticketholders about cancelled 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 cancelled.”

ACCC investigations found that Qantas cancelled almost one in four flights between May and July 2022, which represents 15,000 flights out of 66,000 domestic and international flights. 

The commission is seeking orders including penalties, injunctions, declarations, and costs.

In its statement, the ACCC said it continues to receive more complaints about Qantas than any other business. Last year alone, the ACCC received more than 1300 complaints about Qantas cancellations, accounting for half of all complaints about Qantas.

The ACCC said Qantas had made public statements that most consumers holding COVID flight credits were eligible for, and should seek, refunds and urged consumers holding flight credits to seek refunds directly from Qantas.

The ACCC said a class action has been launched about flight credits and said affected consumers may be able to seek remedies against Qantas as part of this class action.

Class action

The class action is being launched by Echo Law on behalf of Qantas customers who held tickets for domestic or international flights cancelled due to COVID travel restrictions.

Echo Law says customers were entitled to a full cash refund for those cancelled flights. Instead, Qantas issued the majority of its customers with travel credits or vouchers, which were subject to significant restrictions and would expire if not used. 

Accordingly, those credits were of much lower value to customers than the refunds to which they were entitled.

“By acting in this way, Qantas has enjoyed significant financial benefits at its customers’ expense,” Echo Law said on its website.

“We consider that affected Qantas customers are entitled to compensation, even if they have used the credits they were issued.”

Echo Law alleges:

• Qantas breached its contract with customers by failing to provide cash refunds for cancelled flights or failing to provide refunds in a timely manner.

  • Engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law by misleading customers as to their rights on flights cancelled due to COVID-19.
  • Unlawfully benefitted from customers by holding for years a very significant amount of customer funds that ought to have been refunded.
  • Engaged in unconscionable conduct in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.

If you held tickets for a Qantas flight that was cancelled due to COVID travel restrictions you can join the class action, even if you have since used any travel credits or were able to obtain a full refund. 

Visit Echo Law here to join the class action.

Has Qantas ever cancelled your flight? Did you get a refund? Why not share you experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Qantas flies away with a Shonky award

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


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