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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Airline Bought Tickets for Already Canceled Flights, Watchdog Group Says

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Qantas Airways, Australia’s nationwide airline, offered hundreds of tickets for flights that it had already canceled, the nation’s client watchdog mentioned in a lawsuit in opposition to the provider, and left vacationers scrambling to make various preparations.

In an announcement on Thursday, the Australian Competitors and Client Fee mentioned it had began authorized proceedings in Australian federal court docket in opposition to Qantas. It mentioned the airline had engaged in false, deceptive or misleading conduct by promoting tickets for greater than 8,000 flights scheduled from Might 2022 to July 2022 that it knew it might by no means fly.

The airline mentioned it took the allegations “critically” and would reply to them in full in court docket. However, in an announcement, it famous that the flights had occurred at a time of “upheaval” for the business, throughout a “difficult” postpandemic return to normalcy.

In its submitting, the watchdog group mentioned tickets remained obtainable for a mean of greater than two weeks and generally so long as 47 days after the flights had been canceled.

The flight cancellations had been sometimes associated to not climate or staffing shortages however to circumstances throughout the airline’s management, together with modifications in “client demand, route withdrawals or retention of takeoff and touchdown slots at sure airports,” Gina Cass-Gottlieb, the chair of the Australian Competitors and Client Fee, mentioned in an announcement. The fee didn’t state why Qantas would have offered tickets for canceled flights.

The information got here as anger swirls in Australia at revelations that the federal government blocked Qatar Airways from including flights to Australia to guard Qantas’s pursuits, in flip retaining fares at double the price of these of earlier than the pandemic.

The proposal, which might have added a million seats a yr and most probably have decreased costs, was blocked by Catherine King, the transportation minister, who mentioned it was not in Australia’s nationwide pursuits, together with the “want to make sure that there are long-term, well-paid, safe jobs by Australians within the aviation sector.”

The airline faces a separate class-action lawsuit over its coverage on flights canceled due to the pandemic, through which the airline issued journey credit that will expire slightly than give refunds to clients.

“By performing on this method,” the swimsuit alleges, “Qantas has loved vital monetary advantages at its clients’ expense.”

In an announcement, Qantas mentioned the interval referred to by the watchdog “was a time of unprecedented upheaval for the whole airline business.” The corporate posted a document revenue of round 2.5 billion Australian {dollars}, or $1.6 billion, for the fiscal yr that ended June 30. In the course of the pandemic, it obtained 2.7 billion Australian {dollars} in help from taxpayers, which it has mentioned it is not going to pay again.

Chatting with the Australian Broadcasting Company, the nation’s public broadcaster, on Friday, Ms. Cass-Gottlieb mentioned the fee would search “a document penalty” of a minimum of 250 million Australian {dollars} from the airline to ship a warning to corporations about consumer-related misconduct.

“That is going to be an essential take a look at for us. We take into account these penalties have been too low,” she mentioned, including: “We’re going to search a penalty that may underline that this isn’t simply to be a price of doing enterprise — it’s to discourage conduct of this nature.”

The earlier highest penalty, 125 million Australian {dollars}, was issued to Volkswagen in 2020 after the carmaker was discovered to have misled customers and regulators about its compliance with Australian diesel emissions requirements.

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