DALLAS — Court papers filed with the Federal Court of Australia reveal that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) intends to take legal action against Qantas (QF) over ‘misleading’ ticket sales.
To be more precise, the ACCC alleges that the carrier broke consumer law by selling tickets for flights that were already canceled. Furthermore, they also claim that QF neglected to promptly inform customers whose flights were canceled after the time of ticket purchase. The alleged breach of consumer protection legislation took place between May 2021 and July 2022.
The filing reveals that within the 15-month period, over 8,000 flights remained on sale for an average of 16 days following the cancellation of the service. Additionally, it is also claimed that in the case of over 10,000 flights, the airline failed to inform travelers with existing reservations that their flight was canceled.
The consumer watchdog states that in some cases, it took the carrier weeks rather than days to make this notification. The ACCC also states that both short- and long-haul flights were affected and that many cancellations were made due to commercial interest.
“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 cancelled flights, likely affecting the travel plans of tens of thousands of people,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.
Cass-Gottlieb added, “We allege that Qantas’ conduct in continuing to sell tickets to cancelled flights and not updating ticket-holders 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.”
The airline has indicated that it intends to contest the legal challenge. In a media release, the carrier said, “Qantas takes these allegations by the ACCC seriously. We have a longstanding approach to managing cancellations for flights, with a focus on providing customers with rebooking options or refunds. It’s a process that is consistent with common practice at many other airlines. 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-publicised 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.”
If the legal judgment is upheld, relevant Australian Consumer Law could see the airline handed a fine that could amount to ten percent of the carrier’s annual turnover.
Featured image: VH-ZND Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Ervin Eslami/Airways