Qantas cannot guarantee flights
"Qantas cannot guarantee flights," says the airline as it launches its defense in the ACCC "ghost flights" case Business reporter Nassim Hadem Published 9 hours ago, updated 3 hours ago
Qantas may face fines of hundreds of millions of dollars if found guilty of misleading customers by advertising thousands of "ghost flights" - flights that had already been canceled. However, the airline has begun its legal defense, claiming that its actions were reasonable.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) alleges that Qantas sold tickets for over 8000 "ghost flights" that it had already canceled.
Qantas has filed its defense in the Federal Court.
In a statement to the media, Qantas stated that while it "fully acknowledges that it let customers down during the post-COVID restart, including due to high cancellation rates," and "while mistakes were made, the ACCC's case ignores the realities of the aviation industry - airlines cannot guarantee specific flight times."
It goes on to say that all customers of canceled flights were offered an alternative flight or a refund, and "no service fees" were charged.
"As we have stated from the beginning of this matter, we fully acknowledge that the period ACCC is looking at was an extremely challenging one for our customers," the airline said.
"The restart of flights after the COVID-19 shutdown was challenging for the entire industry, with staff shortages and supply chain issues coinciding with huge pent-up demand.
"As a result, Qantas canceled thousands of flights, and there were many unacceptable delays. While we successfully restarted aircraft, we made many other mistakes, and for that, we sincerely apologized."
The statement claims that from a legal perspective, the ACCC's case "ignores the fundamental reality and key condition that applies when airlines sell tickets."
"While all airlines make every effort to operate flights as scheduled, no airline can guarantee this. This is because the nature of travel - where weather and operational issues mean that delays and cancellations are inevitable - makes such a guarantee impossible."
The statement says this is backed up on the ACCC's own website.
"For this reason, we promise that customers will be able to get to their destination as close to their booked flight time as possible, either on the original or an alternative service at no extra cost," the airline said.
"Otherwise, we offer a full refund. This aligns with our commitments under consumer protection laws, and it's exactly what we were doing during the ACCC's review period."
Summary of ACCC's allegations against Qantas ACCC, led by Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb, claims that Qantas canceled some flights that were scheduled to depart from May 1, 2022, to July 31, 2022, and that the airline continued to sell tickets on its website on average more than two weeks and in some cases up to 47 days after the flights were canceled. This amounts to 8000 ghost flights.
ACCC also alleges that Qantas did not notify existing ticket holders of the cancellation of more than 10,000 flights scheduled from May to July 2022, on average 18 days and in some cases up to 48 days.
ACCC claims that Qantas did not update its 'Manage Booking' webpage to reflect the cancellations. It says that such conduct affected a significant portion of Qantas flights canceled during the May to July 2022 period.
The company provides several examples in its press release, and in a statement to the Federal Court, ACCC lawyers stated: "As a result of Qantas' conduct, consumers may have made decisions to purchase airline tickets based on false or misleading information. As a result of these decisions, some Qantas customers may have suffered losses, as they arranged trips or other events based on the expected flight schedule."
It added, "Consumers who relied on the flight information on the 'Manage Booking' webpage had less time to consider alternative travel arrangements, and some may have incurred greater costs for alternative travel arrangements once they became aware of the cancellation of their flight.
"Some consumers may also have paid a higher fare for a flight at a particular selected time and may not have done so, or may have sought to travel at a different time or date or with an alternative airline if they knew that the flight they paid for had already been canceled."