Qantas will scrap its 31 December deadline for refunds on COVID-19 flight credits after sustained criticism.
Qantas customers who hold credits for flights up to October 2021 which were cancelled due to lockdowns will be able to claim a cash refund with no time limit, while Jetstar customers will be able to use their credits for flights indefinitely.
As an incentive for customers to use their credits for flights rather than refunding them, starting on 4 September, the national carrier will offer double the Frequent Flyer points on flights booked with Qantas COVID-19 credits. This will last until the previous expiry date of 31 December, after which customers will only be able to access refunds rather than booking flights with unused credits.
“We’re doing this because we’ve listened. We know the credit system was not as smooth as it should have been, and, while we’ve improved it recently, and extended the expiry date several times, people lost faith in the process,” said CEO Alan Joyce in a video message to customers.
“We hope this helps change that. We also hope that a lot of people still choose to put their credit towards their next journey.”
The reports follow a fiery Senate committee hearing on Monday in which ALP Senator Tony Sheldon, a long-time critic of Qantas, berated CEO Alan Joyce, Jetstar CEO Stephanie Tully, and Qantas head of corporate affairs Andrew McGinnes over the credits system, with revelations that Jetstar was also holding around $100 million in credits above the approximately $370 million from Qantas flights.
“We are here asking questions about substantial sums of money that is owed to the Australian public overseas and through the Jetstar operations, that have not been paid. You have put an arbitrary deadline of December this year when people lose that money and the money stays in the pockets of Qantas and Jetstar,” Sheldon said.
Tully stressed that the group intended to refund or honour all remaining credits by the December 31 deadline.
“Our absolute goal is that there’s zero credit left by the end of December. We’ve taken a lot of action over the last three years in communicating and promoting and providing offers to use the credit, and over the next four months, you’ll see us doing a lot of that,” she said.
“We have already processed well in excess of $1 billion in refunds from COVID credits for customers who were impacted by lockdowns and border closures. The majority of customers with COVID credits can get a refund and we’ve been running full-page ads and sending emails to encourage customers who want a refund to contact us directly,” the spokesperson said.
The national carrier has faced criticism and accusations over the last several years for how it has handled COVID-19 flight credits during and after the pandemic, including a formal complaint to the ACCC about the “many obstacles” customers faced when trying to redeem their credits.
The airline last extended its credit expiry deadline in March after pressure from consumer advocacy group Choice. Additionally, Qantas’s ‘Find My Credit’ tool, launched in June, can track bookings up to three years old that may have changed several times due to the pandemic, and in July it rolled out an ad campaign reminding customers to use their credits.