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Choice files ACCC complaint over Qantas flight credits

written by Hannah Dowling | April 12, 2022

Qantas Boeing 737-800 VH-VZA, captured by Victor Pody.

Consumer advocacy organisation Choice has filed a formal complaint with the ACCC after consumer surveys highlighted the “many obstacles” faced by Qantas customers seeking to cash in their flight credits.

Choice said its ACCC complaint calls out the “potentially misleading and deceptive conduct” in Qantas’ flight credit redemption policy.

It comes after Australian Aviation reported that ACCC had opened a public consultation seeking evidence that Qantas is raising prices on tickets purchased with flight credits accrued during the pandemic, and follows months-long allegations of price gouging of credit holders.

Choice revealed on Tuesday that over several surveys completed over recent months, many consumers have struggled to use the flight credits they were awarded in lieu of refunds for travel that was impacted by COVID-19, with a recent survey suggesting one in five customers have been entirely unable to use their credit.

One major obstacle for flight credit holders is that any booking that was cancelled, either by the airline or the customer, after 30 September 2021 was subject to new rules that meant that future bookings using the credit had to be of equal or more value than the original.

“For instance, if you have a $500 credit for a Sydney to Melbourne flight and the price is now $475, you wouldn’t be able to use the credit, even if you waived the $25 loss. Instead, you’d have to buy a new ticket and leave your credit untouched,” Choice revealed.

Choice said it ran a survey in January this year, which found that nearly a third of people trying to use flight credits to purchase new flights were forced to pay more than the cost of the original flight, and many also reported that paying with flight credit would cost them more than buying a new ticket on that same flight.

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One customer said, “I was able to get a flight credit, but the flight ended up costing me about $200 more than if I had booked it outright. Very disappointing.

“How can Qantas get away with that?”

Another issue, according to Choice, is that anyone who received flight credit for an international flight is unable to use that credit to instead book multiple domestic flights, which is highly limiting for anyone no longer intending to travel internationally, particularly as the credit’s expiry looms.

Many customers report being unaware of such restrictions on their flight credit vouchers, and that these conditions were not flagged to them at the time of issue.

According to Choice, many customers have also faced difficulties obtaining or using their flight credits, even for fares that meet the above conditions, due to an ongoing issue in Qantas’ customer service phone lines.

One customer said they spent 10 hours or more trying to rectify an issue with their flight credit when Qantas initially double-billed them for the ticket. The airline refunded the double payment and offered a flight vouched for the original booking.

“When I tried to use the voucher 10 months later, it said it was not valid. I spent hours on the phone trying to talk to someone at Qantas about their error,” the customer said.

“No one could understand what had happened and [they] insisted I had already been refunded the fare.”

Meanwhile, many frustrated customers claimed it was near impossible to speak to anyone from Qantas due to tied-up phone lines.

“Qantas makes it so hard to access support that people just give up,” one customer said. “I believe this to be deliberate.”

According to Choice, as of late February this year, Qantas and its budget carrier Jetstar were holding a total of $1.4 billion in unused flight credits and future bookings.

According to the airline, only about 7 per cent of Qantas credit holders have used their credits. For Jetstar, the figure was about 19 per cent.

Qantas began making headlines earlier this year over its flight credit policy after A Current Affair revealed evidence of “price gouging”, forcing credit holders to pay more for a ticket than if they purchased the same ticket outright.

Customers at the time reported paying more than double the price for economy seats when paying with Qantas flight credits, over those paying with cash or card.

Qantas denies the accusation and has indicated any fare discrepancies are due to recent rules that restrict flight credit holders to only purchase tickets of the same fare class or higher.

Comments (25)

  • Scott

    says:

    Is this the “spirit of Australia” ? Really ?

    Fly Virgin !

  • Julie Buttriss

    says:

    Qantas is a thief. We are down appox $1200 for credit of $300 odd unable to be used and additional $800 odd charged for a chaned flight due to covid, when they were advertising you could change flights at no additional cost. I have a refund request for travel conducted in April last year that still has not been addressed. Our friends, whom we were travelling with, who made all the changes on our behalf , received their refund of $800 odd in October last year, but we are still waiting.
    We weren’t allowed to pay for our change in flight charges with the credit we had because it wasnt the same value.
    We will never deal with Qantas direct again and we will never fly with Qantas again.
    This has left a very bad taste. Qantas have not been fair to their customers, and they certainly haven’t been consistent to customers in their treatment of refunds.
    Truly an un -Australian Company.
    Julie Buttriss

  • Martin

    says:

    Well done Choice and ACCC! I have been a member if Choice and Qantas Frequent Flyer for 30 years (mostly top tier) and never seen such lousy pre flight reservations as it is now (irrespective of claiming 700 new employees hired).

    Using the “priority” number to call QFF for bookings changes made by QANTAS and not able to modify online, I have wasted 5 calls of approximately 2 hours a time, just trying to get some booking sort out. I still have not had two flights confirmed!

    Let’s hope this is resolved quickly and effectively and I hope someone from QANTAS management team read this and also understand your ‘tri-aging’ by a foreign reservations team is NOT working.

  • Zlarin

    says:

    Qantas is using false protocols to deter people from being able to use credits as well as deliberately stalling with refunds. Imagine if I tried to book a ticket and said they would get paid sometime within 4-5 weeks. That’s what they are doing with refunds after hours on the phone and having a cancellable ticket- with penalties of course. Instead of cancelling the ticket as requested and applying the refund balance back to my card, they issued a credit voucher with an expiry date on it and then hid behind a wall of silence with no ability to make contact, online or direct, other than waiting on their interminable call centre whose staff do not have the knowledge or ability to make decisions.

    • Lindsay

      says:

      QANTAS call centre staff DO have the knowledge, or else they would NOT be employed in the job!

      Their ‘ability to make decisions’ is guided by the fares’ & ticketing rules, set by IATA, not the airline.
      QANTAS is an IATA member, & must follow these rules.

      Maybe ticket purchasers’ should read the rules of their ticket, as they’re asked to do prior purchase, instead of going off ‘half cocked’.

      • Rhonda

        says:

        I spent over 6 hours to customer ‘care’ just to ask about flight credits. That’s not including the other 3 hours following up. I just wanted to ask about flight credit expiry on changes I was thinking of making. I wanted to know if I could change my booking to a different route that was inconvenient but only one third of the price, leaving flight credits for a trip in the future. I just wanted to know if it was possible and if it wasn’t possible that’s ok, I’d stick with my original booking. I looked at changing on the website but it wouldn’t allow the route change so I tried cancelling for flight credits and it said they would be valid for 2 months only, which is of no use to me. So I called customer ‘care’ to ask and clarify. I just wanted clarification first. The first operator, after 1.45 hours waiting to connect and half an hour of her continually putting me on hold said she didn’t know and had to check with her supervisor and would call me back the next day. She didn’t call back. The second operator, after 2 hours to get through and half hour asking her what happens with flight credits and how would it affect my booking, did not answer my question just put me on hold for 10 minute periods (a few). She just kept asking about the change I wanted to make, I told her but also told her I need to know about the flight credit situation first. She wouldn’t answer my question, just kept putting me on hold. She then came back and said I will be getting an email with my details. She had changed the booking!! She didn’t confer with me about the changes, prices or if I wanted to go ahead with the changes, and I was charged 2-3 times the cost of the advertised flights on the qantas website. So I was charged close to the same amount as my original booking but now have the inconvenience of having to travel an extra 3 hours and pay a weeks parking and hotel at the airport – and she STILL DIDN’T ANSWER MY QUESTION about flight credits. It is an absolute debacle. I’m now into my 9th hour of trying to get help from Qantas with still no resolve and $450 dollars of missing flight credits that I have no confirmation of and no idea where they are!

  • Mark

    says:

    I have a credit sitting there I can’t use because the flight had been booked for my daughter and I – now I can’t use that credit for me alone. This is a blatant ripoff and I have started flying Virgin again purely because of this attitude Qantas has. I’m a platinum member with Qantas but I won’t fly with Qantas again because of this.

    • Vannus

      says:

      An airline ticket is valid ONLY for the person NAMED on the ticket.

      QANTAS doesn’t set these rules, IATA does, & as an IATA member airline, QANTAS must follow the rules.

      It’s not a ‘rip off’, it’s a ticketing rule, & as a Platinum QF FF, would’ve thought you knew this.

      Read the conditions’ of any ticket you purchase. Simples!

  • Nicholas

    says:

    Bit confusing here, why would the ACCC look at a complaint from Choice??? Surely its only interested in actual specific complaints from Consumers??

    The other thing, read the conditions on your tickets folks, that’s why they are there…

    I’d be amazed if Qantas has breached any of its terms and conditions, they’ve actually said in many cases they’ve relaxed these.

    So what we have here, again, is people complaining – as in floods with no insurance, as in bush fires living close to trees and here with people complaining because an Airline is observing the Terms and Conditions that it gave you when you got your ticket.

    We are a nation of whiners …..

    • Vannus

      says:

      Thank you Nicholas, you’re 100% correct.

      I, too, doubt QANTAS has been remiss, as it’s following the ticketing rules set by IATA.

      Passengers’ are way too ready to blame the airline for their errors’.

  • Vicki

    says:

    For a flight originally costing $241, the changed flight ended up being over $540 due to their price gouging. But if I put the credit aside and paid for another flight it was a lot cheaper. But in saying that I would’ve been in the same situation when I go to use the credit within the next 12mths.

    The CEO needs to get himself a credit or rebook a flight and see what happens to really know how his company is over charging passengers. He is clueless as to his own company’s rebooking practices.

    • Vannus

      says:

      Hey Vicki, go & read the ‘Conditions of Carriage’ of your tickets’ purchased.

      QANTAS is NOT price gouging! If you want to use a ticket credit, one of the conditions’ is you MUST purchase a fare of equal, or higher value than the original ticket.
      Also by the way, an airline ticket is only valid for the person NAMED on it.
      If you’d read the conditions’ when you purchased the ticket, you would’ve known these facts.

      QANTAS is NOT overcharging, so its’ CEO doesn’t need to buy a ticket, & don’t make the mistake that Mr Alan Joyce is clueless, as he is well aware of IATA Ticketing Rules, by which as a member airline, his Company is bound.

      So stop your pointless diatribe, against QANTAS, as it only shows who’s the ‘clueless’ one……

  • Vannus

    says:

    It’s about time people who buy airline tickets’ READ the conditions’ of those thickets.

    It’s oh so easy to blame the airline, but in fact, people aren’t taking responsibility for their lack of actions’.

    When booking online, they just ‘tick the box’ which asks if they’ve read the conditions’, without ever doing so.

    Then when they make a mistake, which they invariably did constantly, they harass the airline staff with such excuses’ as ‘your computer changed my booking’.
    Yeah right, YOU were the one typing on your computer keypad.

    IATA airline ticketing rules are there for a reason.
    Always have been, always will be.

    • Tonny

      says:

      Vannus, apparently you work for QANTAS.

      A month ago I purchased tickets for an international trip over Easter. QANTAS canceled one of the flights and hence automatically canceled my trip and gave me voucher for the 3200$.
      I couldn’t use the voucher online and call centere wait was over 3 hours. When finally got the Customer Rep it took more than half an hour to get nowhere and then the line disconnected. She never called again.
      I had to pay another 3500$ for replacement flights (not with QANTAS of course) and yet to figure out what will happen with my original 3200$.

      Now the questions for you: What condition from the T&C did I miss that says :
      1. You’ll never be practically able to contact us.
      2. If we cancel your flight we will give you a (almost) none redeemable voucher.
      3. When you want your money back we will hold it for a few weeks and than we’ll see.

      BTW I read Alan Joice comment that waiting time is long because they have 3X pre pandemic and this is unacceptable. But, Current wait time is over 5 hours and that means at normal level of calls waait time is 100minutes.

    • C Graunas

      says:

      Is Qantas paying you or what? It’s blatantly apparent to anyone that they are doing everything in their power to avoid coming good on the flight credits issued. ‘Mistakes’ are continually made by ‘customer service’ personnel, additional information called for repeatedly, emails not answered, new conditions suddently revealed. Corporate greed and capitalism win again.

      • Mandy Kelly

        says:

        I have a similar story. My Qantas connecting flights were changed several times until the first flight arrived after the connecting flight had departed. Instead of cancelling my flight & offering me a refund automatically(how about a ‘refund’ button on their website, like some other airlines?) I had to call them. 5hrs 21 mins before I made contact & another 1hr 15 mins trying to arrange the refund with an incompetent person. Assured I would receive a refund in 10 working days. Two months later I’m still waiting. A complaint email gave me a case number but still no follow up. Now what? Like many others I will never use Qantas again.

  • Thomas Kerry

    says:

    2 years I have been waiting for Mt credit or refund. Messages on Qantas fb page occasionally answered. We will get back to you,
    Last message was.
    Tried calling…. wait times are the same today as they were 2years ago
    I am finished with qantas

  • Kym Wood

    says:

    I was told my 3 x flights, valued at over $2400 was changed to a credit voucher in March 2020. The expiry was changed to 12/2023. We wanted to fly to Melbourne this year and wanted to use the credits. I have currently spent over 20+ hours on hold over several attempts to correct this error and reinstate my vouchers. 4 times now I have been placed back on hold and then the hold just cuts off – and each time I ask if I get cut off can they please phone me back – they all say yes but never do. I have emailed them, used the social media Messenger platform, and phone attempts and still NOTHING. I have contacted the ombudsman and they have put me onto another agency. I have emailed them and now have a 20 business day wait for a response. It is now at the stage where I will seek private legal advice. This is absolutely pathetic. I am so disgusted and disappointed in Qantas.

  • Gary Topping

    says:

    Well Vannus, reading the rules of a fare is most important, however QF are changing those rules once the ticket is issued. I contracted QF to fly me from SYD to PER, they didn’t do that therefore they broke the contract. Therefore they should refund me, seems I’m now lending QF a bunch of money interest free with restrictions on having my loan repaid..

  • FFDazza

    says:

    It’s not about IATA ticket rules it’s about airline attitudes to REFUNDS
    Virgin refunds are paid into a travel bank account in the name of the cancelled traveller
    I cancelled a Virgin ticket in my name and was able to use the travel bank stored value to pay for a new ticket for another person to a different destination.
    In fact I could use just part of the stored value and I’ll use the remaining balance to pay all or part of future travel for myself or another person.
    Well done Virgin

  • Janine

    says:

    Still waiting four months on for a business class flight refund which Qantas could’ve simply returned to my card – like most other airlines – as it was cancelled within two hours of booking. Cancelled an Air NZ flight the other day – a month after purchase – & the money was back on my card two business days later! Adding together the hours, I’ve spent a weekend on hold with Qantas trying to sort out refunds. Ridiculous refund time frame when other airlines show what is possible, accruing good will as well as removing the expense of double staff handling. Wouldn’t be surprised if Qantas is leveraging refund money.

  • Deidre Chrzescijanski

    says:

    Had a qantas flight cancelled (by qantas) and they booked neconto another flight which was unsuitable. I could not cancel their alternative flight without cancelling my return flight as well so i tried ringing qantas to tell them….mission impossible. Their is no customer service…you cannot speak to anyone without a very very long wait (hours) or (as happened to me) being advised to get a call back (within an hour) and the call back is 9 hours later when i am in bed asleep! Unbelievably bad behaviour from our major airline. Even when I lodged a formal complaint ….no follow up except a ‘receipt’ number for the complaint. Qantas is beyond the pale in underperformance at the monent and covid is no excuse for unethical behaviour towards customers.

  • John Kennedy

    says:

    Qantas is a con wether it’s cashing in points for free travel or using the credit vouchers. I have been platinum for many years but no more I am off to Singapore airlines who are far more generous with customers

  • Charlotte

    says:

    While I accept the terms of the credit, the issue is that if you search for the same flight in both the Qantas Credit Portal and on its own site and compare the exact same flight with same fare conditions, the flight in the Qantas Credit Portal is almost always more expensive.

    If you compare the Qantas system to the VA Travel Bank, you realise how farcical it is.

  • Nivi Das

    says:

    Try applying the Credit Voucher and that’s when the trouble starts. First of all, the credit voucher of $5,950 (cancelled family trip to Santiago, March 2020) simply disappeared off my account. Tried to type in Credit Voucher number “Oops something went wrong. Contact Qantas.”
    We contacted Qantas and after 5 hours of holding, being disconnected, talking to entirety unhelpful, non-knowledgeable people who transferred us from one to another like a unwanted parcel, finally spoke to someone who was suddenly able to see the Credit voucher on his screen.
    He was, however, unable to explain conditions of redemption to us.
    He was going to email us the terms and conditions in 3 days. Hasn’t happened as yet.
    Well so I can now see the credit voucher under ‘My Bookings’ , but try using it?
    Bask to Something went wrong. Contact Qantas’

    So they are trying to discourage us from using the voucher by making it impossible to apply, having a sub standard customer service and phone lines that take multiple hours to get through.
    They are reluctant to refund the money though the original fare conditions allowed refund. They appear to have altered original conditions now and they link on original ticket takes you to a page which show different conditions to what we saw when we purchased the tickets

    It’s a dodgy scam !
    Qantas have no intention of refunding r allowing us to redeem the voucher or apply credit against any new flights

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