Qantas is being sued in the Federal Court over accusations it advertised tickets for more than 8,000 flights that it had already cancelled but not removed from sale.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced on Thursday it had filed proceedings against the flying kangaroo in the Federal Court for allegedly engaging in “false, misleading or deceptive conduct.”
The ACCC alleges Qantas kept selling tickets for more than 8000 cancelled flights scheduled to depart between May and July last year.
They claim the airline kept selling tickets for more than weeks and, in some cases, for up to 47 days after the flights were cancelled.
In another example, Qantas sold 21 tickets for QF73 from Sydney to San Francisco scheduled to depart on 28 July 2023 after it had cancelled the flight, with the last ticket being sold 40 days after cancellation.
The watchdog further alleges Qantas did not notify existing ticketholders for another 10,000 flights that they had been cancelled for up to 18 days, and in some cases up to 48 days, over the same time period.
“This conduct affected a substantial proportion of flights cancelled by Qantas between May to July 2022,” the ACCC said in a statement.
Qantas continued to sell tickets for about 70 per cent of the cancelled flights for two days or more, the ACCC alleges.
“Or, (they) delayed informing existing ticketholders that their flight was cancelled for two days or more, or both,” the ACCC statement alleges.
In a statement, the Qantas said it took the allegations “seriously” and pointed to its “longstanding approach” to flight cancellations.
“(We have) a focus on providing customers with rebooking options or refunds. It’s a process that is consistent with common practice at many other airlines,” a spokesman said.
The airline said the period examined by the ACCC was a time of “unprecedented upheaval for the entire airline industry.”
“All airlines were experiencing well-publicised issues from a very challenging restart, with ongoing border uncertainty, industry wide staff shortages and fleet availability causing a lot of disruption,” a spokesman said.
“We will examine the details of the ACCC’s allegations and respond to them in full in court.”
One allegation involved ticketholders scheduled to fly on Qantas flight QF93 from Melbourne to Los Angeles on May 6, 2022 first being notified of the cancellation on two days earlier, but four days after it was actually cancelled.
One person was allegedly provided with a replacement flight a day before their original departure date, which was communicated only by the Qantas app.
“As a result, the consumer had to change connecting flights and had a 15-hour layover in Los Angeles, which had a significant impact on the consumer and left them $600 out of pocket,” the ACCC’s statement alleges.
ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said the court action followed a detailed investigation into the airline’s practice.
“As a result, we have commenced these proceedings alleging that Qantas continued selling tickets for thousands of cancelled flights, likely affecting the travel plans of tens of thousands of people,” she said.