Complaints from Qantas customers are under investigation as ACCC says the airline is not “realistic” about the flights it could serve

Complaints from Qantas customers are under investigation as ACCC says the airline is not “realistic” about the flights it could serve

Complaints from Qantas customers are under investigation as ACCC says the airline is not “realistic” about the flights it could serve

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Consumer scrutiny is investigating Qantas after customer complaints about delayed or canceled flights and expects more chaos in air travel over the Christmas holidays.

Delayed flights and cancellations were at their worst levels outside the pandemic period and domestic travel would not return to normal until next year as airlines struggle to bolster staffing levels, said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in a report on Wednesday.

Flights operated by all airlines have been halted in recent months, but Qantas, the domestic carrier that controls over 60% of the market, has suffered the most complaints.

Related: Qantas records a loss of $ 1.9 billion but revenue soars 54% as air travel increases after borders reopen

Gina Cass-Gottlieb, president of the ACCC, told Guardian Australia that Qantas “did not correctly make a realistic assessment of how many flights it could take” as air travel rebounded after the pandemic.

“We are looking into a number of complaints currently, so we have an ongoing commitment, if I put it this way, because our investigations are confidential until we have reached a point of conclusion on them,” he said.

He said the ACCC has received complaints about Qantas in the past few months, but declined to say exactly what potential consumer law violations it was investigating.

“We will look everywhere and see that there is evidence of misleading claims by any airline in relation to how they have sold their services,” he said.

“If we have evidence of misleading claims, we will pursue and investigate these aspects.”

The president of the ACCC Gina Cass-Gottlieb

ACCC chairman Gina Cass-Gottlieb says the number of delayed and canceled flights in recent times “is not good enough”. Director of photography: Bianca de Marchi / AAP

A Qantas spokesperson said: “Qantas takes our obligations to comply with Australian consumer law very seriously and we will respond to any inquiries we receive from the ACCC.”

In a report released Wednesday, the ACCC said on-time flights were at the lowest level on record, with only 55% of flights arriving on time in July compared to the long-term average of 81.9%.

And 6.1% of flights were canceled, more than three times the long-term average of 2.1%, but less than the peak in April 2020, when a third of flights were canceled due to blockages and closures. borders.

“It’s not good enough,” Cass-Gottlieb said.

He said there were multiple factors behind the crisis that were not under the control of the airlines, including airport security and air traffic control issues.

“What’s more about checking airlines, however, is that they can be realistic about the number of flights they can reliably serve, based on their staffing level, and accept bookings for that number of flights and not. for more flights, “he said.

The ACCC also hopes airlines will start competing on the service, noting that regional airline Rex, which prides itself on retaining staff during the pandemic, had the lowest cancellation rate in July, at 2.1%. compared to Qantas’s 6.2%, Qantas Jetstar’s budget arm 8.8%, and Virgin’s 7.7%.

Qantas reduced its workforce by around 7,800 while much of its fleet remained grounded during the pandemic and lost another 2,000 contractors.

It has since hired another 1,500 employees, but says tight labor markets are making recruiting difficult.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was forced to apologize after blaming customers for not being “fit” to fly as queues snaked through airports in April.

The airline is also engaged in labor disputes with licensed aeronautical engineers, who went on strike for a minute two weeks ago, and flight attendants, where longstanding negotiations for a new domestic flight deal stalled.

Related: The days of cheap and easy air travel may be over, but Australian politicians seem oblivious | Satyajit Das

Problems also in the management of baggage, which Qantas entrusts to three other companies, with the workers of an operator, Dnata, who go on strike on Monday and those of another, Menzies, who are preparing to vote for a union action, while the union of transport workers campaign against the third, Swissport, for safety issues including firearms left on public baggage carousels.

Cass-Gottlieb said the ACCC did not play a role in industrial relations.

“Our focus is on the consequences of that [industrial action] and the ability to be trustworthy and truthful in what consumers are represented when they are offered a flight and expect the flight to depart reasonably on time and certainly not be canceled, “he said.

The ACCC predicts it will be “well into 2023” before manning levels in aviation return to what is required.

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