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Feature: Qantas customers ask ‘where’s our money’ over refunds

written by Sandy Milne | June 23, 2020

A Qantas Boeing 747 landing in Sydney (Aviatormedia.com.au)

Hundreds of Qantas customers have written to the national consumer watchdog in recent weeks, sparking a reprisal of the airline’s handling of grounded flights. 

On Friday, ACCC chief Rodney Sims slammed Qantas over what he felt to be a miscommunication of passenger’s legal rights, stating that the airline only “encouraged these customers to cancel bookings themselves in order to receive a credit when many would have been eligible for a refund”.

While the airline’s refund policy currently notes that customers booked on cancelled services are entitled to either a flight credit or a refund, Sims says that the company “did not communicate clearly with customers about their rights and, in a large number of cases, simply omitted they were entitled to a refund”.

After weeks of pressure from the agency, Qantas said that it has sent communication to passengers to clarify this.

“We didn’t think it was unclear to begin with, but we’ve written again to a group of customers in the window of time that the ACCC is concerned about to make sure they know what alternatives are available to them,” said a spokesman for the airline.


“We hope the ACCC is not inferring that we haven’t done the right thing by our customers, particularly given the efforts we have made to manage an exceptional level of upheaval.”

With Qantas reintroducing service to many parts of Australia as pandemic restrictions begin to ease, a different spokesman reported in May that over 80 per cent of rebooked customers have chosen to accept credit vouchers.

“We’ve received great feedback from customers about how straightforward it is,” the spokesperson said.

Yet the company’s travel credit policy looks set to come under the legal microscope – with Australian law firm Slater and Gordon now seeking registration for a class-action lawsuit. 

The registration page lists a number of potential liabilities, including:

  • Relying on blanket ‘no refund’ clauses in terms and conditions;
  • Inducing customers to exchange their tickets for restricted travel vouchers; and
  • Continuing to offer and accept payment for international flights.

The firm’s website states that the airlines have “presented [travel credits] as an act of generosity, however many customers would have had greater rights had they held on their ticket than if they exchanged it for a restricted travel voucher.”

A lengthy wait for refunds

At the same time as many support staff have been stood down in the wake of the pandemic, the company has had to adapt to the unprecedented situation of rebooking, refunding, or crediting what it said has amounted to “well over a million Qantas tickets”.

While Qantas said that “most refunds are being processed within six weeks”, disgruntled customers have taken to social media to vent their frustrations, with many reporting delays of 10 weeks or more. 

Some Qantas customers are reporting months-long wait times for refunds (Source: Facebook)

On its part, Qantas attributes the delays in processing refunds to underlying factors. 

“Processing a refund is more complicated [than a travel credit or rebooking] and the majority cannot be automated as many are complex – for example, if an itinerary is partially flown or includes codeshare flights.

“In addition, many refunds touch other intermediaries such as travel agents and financial institutions like banks and/or Visa/Mastercard, which can slow down the refund process.”

Qantas has been reached for comment, but at the time of writing has not responded.

How has the refunds/credit policy changed over the course of the crisis?

After cutting the bulk of domestic and international service in mid-March, both Qantas and Jetstar customers were given the option to cancel flights and receive the full value as a travel credit. This offer was made available for new and existing bookings made until 31 March 2020, covering travel up to 31 May 2020.

Further changes were introduced prior to that deadline, with the policy extended to cover travel through 31 October. The new protocols complicated matters somewhat, tagging different booking and travel windows to domestic and international service. 

For example, domestic passengers were given the option of one free flight change, while international travellers were not. 

Qantas and budget subsidiary Jetstar also took different tacks at this point – with travel credits issued for the latter redeemable only across a single subsequent booking. Though the group recently changed this policy to allow credit “splitting” on both networks from mid-June, this has flared tensions with much of its low-cost base in recent months. 

How has Jetstar fared?

The situation seems to be equally dire over at the budget subsidiary, with one popular new Facebook group forming to “track Jetstar cancellation reimbursements”.

Australian Aviation spoke to 23-year old Jonica Wells, who recalls a harrowing story of booking aboard the subsidiary’s newly-reopened Melbourne-Newcastle leg.

Wells recounts that the airline rescheduled the service before presenting her with the option of either accepting the new flight online, or calling the customer support helpline to pursue a credit or refund. 

Unable to travel at the stated time, she said she spent two hours on hold before being cut off. 

(Source: Jonica Wells)

“Just after the two-hour mark I finally heard a dial tone and the muffled sound of someone’s voice. Then the line dropped,” she said.

“I was then asked to rate Jetstar’s service on a scale of 1 to 5.”


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Comments (47)

  • sd


    This QANTAS bashing is tiresome. Virgin and practically every other airline are doing the same.

  • Ian


    no airline can afford to give refunds. If airlines refund everyone, there would be no airlines left anywhere.

    • Rod Pickin


      Ian, WOW, – they may not be able to afford it but that is because of their internal accounting and expenditure practices. One must not forget that the companies have accepted monies for an impending service and for whatever reason the company is unable to perform that service then the only alternative is, a refund. In most cases monies are paid to companies many many months in advance of travel and if they choose to expend those funds prior to travel rather than secure them as cash holdings until travel has commenced then that surely is not a problem for the consumer. Clearly, liability remains with the company, it is simple accounting measures.
      I have to declare that I have a vested interest here; I paid AU$1925.69 on 09.01.20 for travel SIN LHR P/ECY yesterday; not only have I not received any refund or any contact from the airline concerned but the annoying factor is, there appears to be no-one/dept available to talk with about the matter, good PR and customer respect??

      • Edward


        It was cheaper back in the ‘70’s & ‘80’s, eh, Rod?

      • Rod Pickin


        You missed out the ’60’s’ mate

    • Joe


      This was the lamest response I have ever heard

  • Rory


    Where did you get the image of a relic from a bygone era? That dinosaur is from the paper ticket era!

  • Red Cee


    Cruises and other forms of travel are doing the same thing. Not refunding, as they can’t afford it. It isn’t unique to the airline industry, Imam afraid.

  • Peter S


    Thanks ACCC. After 3 months of communication with Qantas (and the creditcard company) and rejections of refunds, they have now promised to refund AUD1600 within the next 10 weeks. This was for my 81 year old mother flying from Scotland to Australia.

  • Yvonne


    Malaysia airlines seem to be by far the worst for not providing refunds or even providing guidance for refund time frame. Someone should check their Facebook page and do a story. Qantas have been bad and deserve to loose customers but Malaysian Airlines should not be allowed to operate in Australia with their consumers relations and practices.

  • Geoff White


    Have been waiting 14 weeks for a qantas refund-what a disgrace of an airline

  • Sue


    Been waiting 16 weeks for a refund still hoping

  • Sue


    Been waiting 16 weeks for a refund still hoping for one

  • Peter Toohey


    We have three flights all booked through Qantas. One is international to Athens. The other two are for flights to Melbourne. Originally, we paid $1060 for Syd return to Melbourne at Easter. They were cancelled due to Covid. When things were looking up we contacted Qantas to rebook our flights to Melbourne using the credit. After 2.5 hours wait on the phone, we were advised that we could use the voucher but not to purchase the now $660 return flights. Easter was a popular time so we were prepared to pay over $1000 return, but were unable to use this voucher in July unless the cost of the flights were of equal or more value. So we were given the only option; to purchase additional flights. Well one week later they were cancelled and now we are stuck with vouchers for $6000 for Greece, $1060 for the original Melb trip and now an additional $660 for the second attempt. Qantas – you hold almost $8000 of our money ! Eventually they agreed to refund the lot , but that’s just on their word. There’s no confirmation email and here we are 10 weeks down the track struggling to get by. Just give people their money back !

  • Paula


    20 weeks for me and still counting ……

  • Rea Kennedy


    We paid Qantas November 2019 for business class tickets to Paris through Flight Centre. Have had no communication from either company. We’re due to fly in April !!!! That’s 9 months they have had our money. I call into Flight Centre regularly. They say sorry!!!!!

  • Linda Barnett


    I have been waiting 16 weeks for refund from Qantas. $2800. Nothing yet. This is appalling. Blaming the number of refunds they have to do is just a lame excuse. The backlog should be cleared by now. What recourse do we all have. This is a lot of money to me as a pensioner.

  • Qantas holding in excess of $16,000 of my money, now 19 weeks waiting for my promised refund.
    They say refunds are “complicated because booking made through my travel agent.” Fortunately for me my travel agent is still in business and she keeps chasing them, only to be told it’s still in the queue for processing. Some people’s travel agents have gone out of business; must be even more frustrating for them.
    My next step at 20 weeks will be to look I to complaint to the ACCC. Anyone been this route?

    • Ruwan


      Yes I am in the same boat . Luckily my travel agent is still operating but since March now December my money has not been returned frustrated is not the word I must use

  • mrs A H


    my cancelled return flight from brisbane to newcastle england on april 4th has never been refunded .I had an email on march 24 telling me of the cancellation .nothing since from quantas. customer care is disgraceful. I was abandoned in brisbane and eventually got a flight home 10 weeks late via qatar airlines,

  • Nicola Thurston


    I encourage everyone to remember this poor refund and communication performance once airlines are again open for international flight business. Public memories are notoriously short but I hope Qantas trades long enough to regret its offhand, cavalier and disrespectful approach to customer refunds. So far have waited 12 weeks for a refund and just been told by my agent it is likely to be another 10. ACCC seems to be the next logical step but do they have any influence. Perhaps small claims court … Jarndyce v Jarndyce for those of a literary bent.

  • Oscar


    Anyone here actually got their refund? I am still waiting for my refund of $4500 for the 11th weeks now since I requested for it back in early July. I booked directly through Qanstas.com originally and was told that it would take 10 weeks to process the refund but no news so far whatsoever. It is a disgrace that they do it so slow so that the incurred interest for the money they hold from customers for cancelled flights are somewhat substantial so that they can survive.

  • L Pomfret


    We have been waiting since the end of June for our refund. We have had no communications from them and it is impossible to speak to anyone.
    Qantas has lost me after flying with them since 1974

  • Leonne Willis


    I have been waiting since June 24 for a refund ($3100). No communication at all from Qantas and impossible to speak to anyone. My travel agent still in business, barely, says there is nothing more she can do. I tried ACCC. Their response was to call Qantas. No hope there. L. Willis

  • Heinz Boeker


    I have been waiting since the 8.May for a refund on flights booked in December .No news yet.

  • Therese


    I have been waiting since mid March for our refund from qantas.

  • Diane


    $7000 for business class flights to hong kong in December not yet cancelled by Qantas, I wonder how long we will have to wait for refund.

  • Michael Di Vincenzo


    On the phone to Flightcentre, booked Qantas Flights through them. They claim Qantas have yet to refund the money to them since around April. Just not good enough for what used to be a top tier Australian Company. Next step will be the ACCC.

  • Trent


    If they haven’t been cancelled, there won’t be a refund.

  • Robert Holliday


    Still waiting for our qantas refund form the beginning of May. Our travel agent has got all other refunds in except qantas and when they have asked qantas they get silence ,. I would rather walk than have any dealings with Qantas again , air New Zealand did a refund in 18 days for our other trip say no to Karen Jim and Qantas

  • Don


    I took the voucher as that was the only option qantas gave other than losing $500 per person and there were 3 of us. Then the ACCC stepped in and the good people at qantas offered refunds which I accepted.
    14 weeks later and I had heard nothing so sent email, reviewed phone call later that day to say they were just about to process my refund that day. What a coincidence. Person on phone tells me refund may take 5 days due to my banks slowness to process.
    Not sure why as I can have money sent from UK that shows in my account overnight.
    Email arrives that says refund is being processed and may take up to 10 days.
    14 days later still no money.
    I have been on hold for over an hour on the phone before having to give up.
    To add insult to injury the phone system plays I still call Australia home being sung in Chinese.
    Sent several email sent today that get non helpful replies.
    I think the money is gone and hopefully Alan Joyce is gone as well
    One email did ask me to rate qantas and would I recommend to others!
    NO NO NO

  • Virat


    Hello Guys,

    Can anyone advise me, actually I was offered flight credit and as per policy I was also eligible for refunds. So can I apply for refunds now? I already have travel insurance policy? This trip was for within Australia domestic.

  • Brian Cosgrove


    Hello everyone, what can we say, Ditto, Ditto as per Don above. When this is over, there will be a lot of people who will not travel with Qantas due to this behaviour – bad news travels fast. If they would be honest and deliver after the “5 working days”, then I would be more understanding, but the delaying tactics are seemingly part of the company policy.

  • georgina carter


    Hi all we too am waiting for our refunds, it has been 16 weeks. I have to contact flight centre to find out information about our refunds. Disappointed that they dont give us an update and i have to continually contact them which now they are getting to be very abrupt. I love travelling with Qantas i feel safe and secure as we all do please qantas dont let us down.

  • Karyn Shawyer


    Well good old QANTAS still hasn’t refunded our International flights (premium economy) to the UK return, so not cheap, and we have been waiting for 20 weeks now. We emailed the ACCC with concerns of the length of time it is taking for refunds with the ACCC replying after 3 weeks to say we need to be patient. Funnily I thought we have been more than patient. So that was a waste of time & effort. It’s strange that QATAR can refund my sister a business class ticket within 2 1/2 weeks but QANTAS can’t get their act together to get refunds processed in 20+ weeks. I will definitely not be booking through Flight Centre & QANTAS ever again if this is how they treat loyal customers.

  • Carl Kelsen


    My wife and I have a cool $38.000 with Qantas that covered two international business class trips we had expected to take during 2020. Both trips were cancelled due to Corona Virus and 6 months later Qantas NOT refunded us a single cent! Contrast this with Qantas wanting payment for tickets within 48 Hrs of having booked them.

    As loyal Qantas customers for in excess of 40 years and holders of Platinum and Gold Status we increasingly question whether we should no longer be loyal to Qantas and wonder if we will ever see our $38,000?

    We appreciate the pain that Qantas must be experiencing, but the zero communication from Qantas as to when we might see a refund sends a VERY CLEAR message that as customers we simply don’t matter.

    Very, very poor Qantas. We remain very disappointed

  • Benita


    I booked flights with Qantas for my son and daughter in law to come home to New Zealand from Melbourne twice, where both flights had been cancelled by Qantas due to Covid. The second booking I made which was in the end cancelled, I was made to pay an extra $0.40c for the same fare type they were originally booked on so in the end had to cancel and request a refund where they said they would refund within the next 10 weeks. This date will end on the 2nd of November 2020. I paid just under $800AUD originally and expect the whole amount back. This money is hard earned cash and might seem like not as much as what others are waiting on to be refunded. Since then, we have rebooked our son and daughter in law on a Air NZ flight (paid by their Nan and Cousin) from Melbourbe to Auckland and they finally fly in tomorrow the 16th of August.
    Will we ever get our hard earned money back from these mongrels that are quick to take our money but think its okay to take their time about giving it back to us for a service we paid for that didnt happen? What can be done? Can anyone help at all? This is just so unfair. And no, I cant afford a lawyer to take them to court, I just want my money now! The good thing is we get our son home for good but need to find the right Avenue to demand our refund now.

  • Anton


    TWENTY WEEKS since I cancelled and requested a refund. Flights were return to Phuket 12th May 2020.
    Still NOTHING not even an explanation.

  • I booked a flight ticket through Qantas last year November 2019 for September this year 2020. Due to covid 19 Qantas cancelled my flight and given me the option of a refund which I expected. It is now 19 weeks since cancelation and I’m still waiting to hear from my agent at Flight centre regarding this issue. I would really like domrone at Qantas to contact me and clarify what is taking so long

  • FB


    Our trip was cancelled by Qantas over four months ago ($12,500). I called to get a refund and they said it would be processed in 12 weeks so after 15 weeks passed, I called to chase it and got a ‘refund confirmation’ email. Now it’s another 16 days and still nothing. On hold for another hour right now and one last try now to get the refund — if no luck, will refer the matter to ACCC and/or join the brewing class action lawsuit.

    It’s worth noting another trip (similar value) on Singapore was refunded in 4 weeks.

  • Eve Cahill


    June 2019 booked via Flight Centre return flight Melbourne to London with Qantas for my sister and myself. First contacted Flight Centre March 2020 for refund. I have repeatably been advised by Flight Centre that my refund has been processed and I should receive refund within 6-8 weeks. Still no refund and no contact/information from Flight Centre unless I contact them.
    My work colleague booked return flight to London in November 2019 and contacted Flight Centre in May 2020 and has received her refund. No one at Flight Centre can tell me how refunds are prioritised. Surely there should be a government agency to check into this fiasco by now.

  • Mark Smith


    Waiting 21 weeks for Cebu Airlines to refund our$2k’s worth of tickets. Qantas have just cancelled our other leg and they say it will be at least 12 weeks. What bullshit is this, refunds take several minutes to enter into the system and mere milliseconds for the computers to process. Do they get that its not their money, its mine?

  • David Marshall


    I have been waiting 16 weeks for a $2200 refund from 2 flights, Alice Springs and Cairns. I contacted Qantas on 2 occasions and was promised a full refund. Alas still nothing. I decided to pursue this through my bank, however i am not holding out too much hope. I used to think Qantas was the go to airline in the world, now i will avoid them like i would avoid covid 19 !!

  • Jo hart


    Qantas have again today told me I have another 45-60 day wait on my refund after already waiting 13 weeks. Shame on you

  • Kristine APOLONIO


    Qantas cancelled our flight through our travel agency last June and they are blaming my travel agency that it is their fault for the delay. Shame on them. Tried to ring them for 2 hours and no answer

  • Paul StevensKing


    Waiting since June 18th for $ 22k refund from Qantas, almost 23 weeks. Travel agent ask for patience, just how much patience can we be expected to have?

  • Paul StevensKing


    Waiting since June 18th for $ 22k refund from Qantas, almost 23 weeks. Travel agent ask for patience, just how much can we be expected to have?

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