Qantas has hit back against claims in a class-action lawsuit that it unlawfully benefited from not refunding passengers under its COVID-19 credits scheme.
In a forceful statement, the Flying Kangaroo said it “completely rejects” the allegations in the suit filed by Echo Law and that it had not yet been served a claim as of midday Monday. Around $400 million in unclaimed COVID-19 credits remained as of June, most ranging between $100 and $500.
A Qantas spokesperson said that the carrier had lost more than $25 billion in revenue and posted $7 billion in statutory losses during COVID-19, contrary to claims by Echo Law that it had enjoyed a significant financial benefit during the pandemic.
“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.
“Qantas has one of the most flexible COVID credit policies of any airline, including among our global peers, and we’ve extended the expiry dates three times.
“We’ve made a number of improvements to our systems along the way, including simplifying the process for a refund and making the credits easier to use, and that’s clear from the amount of credit that has already been claimed.”
The suit claims that Qantas engaged in “unlawful actions” including failing to refund the customers in line with its own conditions of carriage. Andrew Paull, partner at Echo Law, said the carrier is now one of the most profitable airlines in the world and that this profit “has been built, in part, on funds it unlawfully retained from its customers”.
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, with credits now available for use until the end of 2023 for flights departing before 31 December 2024.
Additionally, Qantas’ “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 last month it rolled out an ad campaign reminding customers to use their credits.