Qantas Chairman Richard Goyder has apologised to customers in the airline’s annual report.
Goyder issued a number of mea culpas on behalf of the group in his chairman’s message, including on the Flying Kangaroo’s reliability, the ACCC’s court action over cancelled flights, and the High Court’s decision on the outsourcing of almost 1,700 ground workers in 2020-21.
“As we move through our recovery, management and the Board are acutely aware of the need to rebuild your confidence in Qantas. We’re also conscious of the loss of trust that has occurred because our service has often fallen short of expectations, compounded by a number of other issues relating to the pandemic period,” he said.
Goyder acknowledged difficulties with on-time performance as Qantas and Jetstar restarted following the end of pandemic lockdowns, but said the airline carried 46 million people over the financial year, double the year before.
“We had significant issues as Qantas and Jetstar’s flying ramped up post-COVID, with supply chain and resourcing challenges resulting in too many cancellations and delays. It was deeply disappointing and we sincerely apologise,” he said.
“Our people worked incredibly hard to fix this, and by the end of the year Qantas was the most on time of the major domestic airlines for 11 out of 12 months.”
Goyder also referred to the ACCC’s Federal Court action alleging Qantas had sold tickets to 8,000 flights it had already cancelled, which has led the group to withhold executive bonuses until the court case is resolved.
“We take our obligations under consumer law, and therefore these allegations, very seriously and are working through the legal process now underway,” he said.
“What we can say in the interim is Qantas’ longstanding practice is that when a flight is cancelled, customers are offered an alternative flight or a refund.
“However, in the interests of good governance, the Board will withhold payments under the FY23 short term incentive program for senior executives while this matter progresses.”
In addition, he acknowledged the High Court’s finding that Qantas had illegally sacked 1,683 ground workers during the pandemic.
“While the Court endorsed that Qantas had sound commercial reasons for making this decision, it wasn’t satisfied that we discharged the reverse onus of proof that applied in this case.
“We regret that the circumstances in 2020 necessitated difficult decisions across much of our workforce, including the retrenchment of the 1,700 workers involved. We will be working with the Court on appropriate compensation.
“On any matter, management and the Board only take a course of action if they believe it’s lawful. However, we also accept that there must be accountability where those actions are found to be otherwise, and we will work through these and other issues with relevant stakeholders.”
Qantas posted a $2.47 billion underlying profit before tax for the financial year.