Jetstar loophole prompts bizarre battle as passenger books 58 free flights

An enterprising lawyer is hoping to get thousands of dollars out of Jetstar by using the airline's 'fine print' against them.

SourceA picture of lawyer Tyrone Barugh and a Jetstar and Qantas plane on the tarmac.
A young lawyer has taken the fight to Jetstar in the most unusual fashion. Source: SpiltMilk/Getty

Australia's national carrier Qantas, and its subsidiary Jetstar, have been the target of public ire in recent years, and some fed-up travellers are even finding innovative ways to fight back. An enterprising young lawyer thinks he's found a loophole to gouge Jetstar and is now locked in a bizarre legal battle with the airline.

Kiwi lawyer Tyrone Barugh booked 58 flights between Sydney and Auckland in hopes of taking advantage of a loophole in a 'return for free' promotion put on by Jetstar New Zealand.

He booked a promotional flight from Auckland to Sydney before then cancelling the outbound flight and receiving a credit from Jetstar. He then used the credit to book a Sydney to Auckland trip and again cancel the outbound trip. As a result he was left with two flights which he had paid $0 for.

He then reportedly decided to rinse and repeat the process some 57 times.

Barugh, who runs a small Kiwi-based law firm and is also admitted to practice law in New South Wales according to the firm's website, has now become a thorn in Jetstar's side.

Rather than ever actually using the flights, he is now trying to get a settlement from the airline which he claims he is entitled to under Australian law and Jetstar's policies. The lawyer is arguing he should be eligible for a refund on the taxes associated with the flights to the tune of about $4,500 AUD.

A Jetstar plane pictured in New Zealand.
Jetstar New Zealand is contesting the unusual matter. Source: Getty

Barugh has chronicled his subterfuge online, admittedly to a somewhat mixed response from people.

"F*** yeah i did, and what. nothing unlawful about booking 58 separate SYD-AKL $0 flights. now asking Jetstar NZ to refund the taxes. but they're having a sook," he tweeted on Thursday, sharing a photo of paperwork in his claim currently before the Disputes Tribunal of New Zealand.

"I'm just asking ... Jetstar pay me what's mine by virtue of the deeming provision in s 10(2) of the Passenger Movement Charge Collection Act," he wrote, referring to a $60 tax the Australian government collects on outgoing passengers.

"Honestly even if i lose this i'm f***in proud of this effort."

While the young lawyer has copped some blowback online over his intentions, speaking to New Zealand publication Stuff, he argued he was just giving the airline a taste of its own medicine.

"Jetstar and Qantas are very quick to rely on the fine print rather than talking about fairness when it comes to dealing with customers who have experienced disruption to their travel plans," he said.

According to the publication, the case appeared before the Tribunal on Thursday but Barugh claimed Jetstar tried to bring a lawyer, which is not allowed so the hearing was pushed back.

Australian publication Crickey, which first reported on the dispute, said it had seen Jetstar's statement of defence which asserts the NZ tribunal does not have jurisdiction over a claim that centres around an Australian law and that even if it did, Barugh is not entitled to a proper refund.

When asked if the headline-grabbing crusade was all for a laugh, Barugh told the publication he set out entertaining the possibility of actually winning some money from the airline.

"I'm not out here doing gags for nothing, mate," he reportedly said.

Jetstar said it would not comment while the matter was with the tribunal.

Earlier this month, Jetstar's parent company Qantas admitted to misleading customers for years and agreed to refund hundreds of dollars each to tens of thousands of Australians who endured cancelled flights, dubbed "ghost flights".

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had sued the airline in the Federal Court after alleging Qantas engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct by continuing to sell the tickets on flight that were not due to take off.

A total of 86,597 customers, who between May 2021 and August 2023 were sold fares Qantas had already decided to cancel, will share about $20 million in compensation.

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