Qantas apologises over customer's three-year wait for refund

The Victorian woman told Yahoo it took her almost three years of continuously calling the airline to receive her refund.

Qantas has launched a new online tool to simplify the process of finding and using COVID-related travel credits, as some customers report spending years trying to reclaim the cost of their cancelled flights.

One disgruntled customer told Yahoo News Australia it took her almost three years of continuously calling the airline to finally receive her refund. The Victorian woman, who asked not to be named, booked two tickets to New Zealand in 2020, but the flight was cancelled due to pandemic lockdowns.

Qantas aeroplane at Sydney Airport
Over $400 million in COVID credits remains available to Qantas customers. Source: Getty

"My flight was cancelled and I was automatically issued flight credits that were valid until 26 February 2021, but Qantas did not inform me at the time of my right to a refund," she explained.

The woman spent $513.14 plus her Qantas points to purchase the tickets and was one of hundreds of customers who claim they were not adequately told they were entitled to a refund.

'So frustrating'

The customer says she contacted the airline "repeatedly" after discovering she was eligible, but couldn't get through. Over a year later, the refund still hadn't been processed. "I started calling Qantas again. There were extremely long wait times and a lot of the times the operator hung up on me mid-sentence or the second I connected and never called me back. It was so frustrating dealing with them," she said.

"I realised why I hadn't received my refund," she added. "The credit card I'd used to purchase the tickets years before had expired and I stopped banking with the bank. I once again tried calling to explain this."

She "heard nothing" from Qantas for months until she once again began pursuing them at the beginning of this year. "I gave up calling them and started messaging them on Facebook ... we went back and forth over messenger for weeks because they took ages to come back to me."

Empty arrivals area of the Qantas domestic terminal in Sydney, Australia
The COVID-19 pandemic brought travel to a standstill, causing thousands of Qantas flights to be cancelled. Source: Getty

Qantas communication unclear

While Qantas emailed customers in June 2020 regarding the right to a refund, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said the communication was inadequate.

"From our perspective, from the outset, Qantas did not communicate clearly with customers about their rights and, in a large number of cases, simply omitted they were entitled to a refund," ACCC Chair Rod Sims said at the time.

Qantas apologises

Yahoo News spoke to Qantas about the customer's issues, and her refund was processed days later. "We have contacted this customer and sincerely apologised for her experience," a Qantas spokesperson said. "We originally processed the customer's refund in November 2021 after her original request and we're working with the relevant financial institution to understand why the refund was not completed at the time. We have now re-issued the refund while we investigate the issue."

Qantas has since announced the launch of Find My Credit, an online tool for finding and using COVID-related travel credits up to three years old. About 80 per cent of customers who have these credits still have the option to request a refund.

Passengers queuing at Qantas terminal check-in
Since March 2020, $2 billion worth of COVID credits have been issued by Qantas. Source: Getty

Since March 2020, $2 billion worth of COVID credits have been issued, but over $400 million in the credits still remains available to customers, who have until the end of the year to use them.

"We know the credits system has been challenging because of the sheer complexity of putting millions of bookings in a holding pattern for up to three years," Markus Svensson, Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer said in a media release. "We've made a number of improvements to our systems along the way and that's clear from the amount of credit that has already been claimed."

What customers can do

Mr Svensson added that Qantas offered "the most flexible COVID credit policies of any airline" after extending the expiry deadline three times. However, he did admit the refund process was not straightforward.

"The majority of the COVID credits we hold can be converted into refunds but we can't do it automatically as the credit cards used for the purchase as far back as 2019 may have expired," he stated. "We'd obviously like customers to use their COVID credit to fly with us, but if they'd prefer a refund, we're putting additional processes in place to help with that."

Qantas is currently offering customers double Frequent Flyer points if they book a flight using COVID credit until 31 July 2023. Customers can call 13 13 13 to request a refund or use the Find My Credit tool.

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