Customers who book customers for flight cancellations
The possibility of securing Qantas 600 million dollars in the event that it is discovered to have intentionally offered so-called “ghost flights” would be fair, as per the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The commission has this week begun a legal action before the Federal Court alleging Qantas engaged in fraudulent, deceitful, or deceptive practices by offering tickets on flights that had been canceled and not informing customers of cancellations promptly.
The charges brought by the regulator against Air Canada, which recorded an all-time historic $2.47 billion in profits has led to the departure of long-time CEO Alan Joyce, who quit this week, two months earlier than planned. The court case will definitely increase the workload of the successor to him, Vanessa Hudson.
Read more: Qantas chief Alan Joyce quits early amid customer fury at the airline
Qantas has acknowledged that service standards might have slipped as the airline was struggling to recover after the pandemic.
It is the nature and extent of errors that caused the mistakes made by the airline will determine the liability of the airline as a consumer regulator as well as to claims from individuals seeking compensation.
In addition, the case highlights the need for better regulation of the passengers of airlines as compared to other countries.
The new Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson and her predecessor Alan Joyce speak to media on Thursday, August 24 2023. Bianca De Marchi/AAP
How did Qantas become involved in this mess?
The short answer, and most likely, is that the airline didn’t handle flight cancellations promptly due to the huge quantity of work and labor shortages when it tried to restart operations following the expiration of restrictions on pandemics.
The allegations of the consumer regulator relate specifically to the months of May and June 2022. Australia removed a number of COVID-related travel restrictions during March, and travelers entering the country on or after July 6 did not have to provide proof of vaccination. The airline was working to get its planes back in service, and to employ or train its employees, and was battling to get back to normal operation.
In its announcement, the competition watchdog stated that the airline canceled almost four out of every flight scheduled at that time, and for two of three canceled flights, it was either selling tickets on the same day or didn’t inform passengers, sometimes for a long periods of time or both.
Flight cancellations are a regular aspect of airline operations. However, the “usual” cancellation rate is less than 2 percent and just a fraction of the rate Qantas faced between May and June 2022. The thing that is unique is that Qantas did not remove cancellations out of its reservation system. It’s something I’ve never heard of.
Nearly one out of four Qantas flights between the months of May and June 2022 were canceled. Joel Carrett/AAP
It is also possible that the airline has been through adequate “practice” with schedule adjustment during the outbreak to be able to recognize more. There are evident flaws in the airline’s management. There are lessons to be learned from this mess.
What is Qantas’ liability?
The extent of the liability of an airline is not easy. Evidently, any business that is offering a product or a service that it does not intend to offer is at fault and is liable for the penalties.
However businesses selling products that have defects that it doesn’t know about, even though it is doing its best to avoid such issues from happening, may be subject to some expenses (such as those incurred by recalls for products) but could be exempt from penalties.
The burden will fall on Qantas to prove that it committed an honest error rather than an error of judgment. However, given the magnitude of the incident, the airline has the challenge of proving this.
Individual claims pending
Along with a potential penalty, Qantas should brace for the possibility of a flood of complaints from individual customers who purchased tickets for a flight that was already cancelled or who were not promptly informed.
Timing is of the crucial importance in this case. If a person has incurred costs even if the flight was operating even though it was cancelled, for instance by booking a hotel that is not refundable There is a legal basis to demand compensation for those costs.
If not, the normal policy will be in effect, and the airline is typically responsible for costs that the passenger has to pay prior to the cancellation of the flight.
Close the regulatory gaps
The regulator must consider taking more time to study the current rights of air passengers in Australia.
In the present, the consumer is eligible for a refund or replacement in the event that the airline fails to provide the services “in a reasonable time” which is during the case of an extended delay or flight cancellation. However, the term “reasonable time” and the specifics of the compensation policy are the responsibility of the airlines.