Qantas responds after customers accuse airlines of voucher 'rort'

Customers hoping to use flight credits to book upcoming trips are reporting being charged extra when trying to use vouchers.

Qantas customer Stewart Cameron had booked a return trip from Sydney to Hobart but had to rebook the flight when the time changed and it no longer suited.

When he went to rebook the flight, selecting a Jetstar flight there and a Qantas flight back, he realised there was a $239 discrepancy in price leading him to question why.

"It was 100 per cent clear cut, as I had two browsers open — one to look at the flights with a credit card and another to use the voucher," he explained to Yahoo News Australia.

A screenshot of Stewart Cameron's flights using a credit card.
Stewart Cameron had two windows open when booking to see if there was a difference in price, finding it was $239 cheaper to book using a credit card. Source: Supplied
Screenshot of Stewart Cameron's flights using flight credit showing it to be $239 more.
When he tried to use a flight credit it was more expensive. Source: Supplied

In screenshots of the two flight prices provided to Yahoo News, it shows a $239 price difference for a flight from Sydney to Hobart.

Mr Cameron said he "wasn't surprised" when he realised the price had gone up when trying to use the credits.

"It confirmed absolutely what I had previously suspected," he said, labelling it a "consumer scandal".

"It should be illegal under Consumer law," Mr Cameron continued.

"Compensation should be paid to every victim. It takes time as well as money."

A Qantas plane taking off.
Many users have reported having trouble using flight credits. Source: Getty

Aussies trying to book flights with credits have been charged more

Mr Cameron isn't alone with his frustrations, with a survey by consumer advocacy group Choice finding 44 per cent of people trying to rebook flights with credits had to pay more than the original cost of the flight.

Choice found those who weren't able to use their vouchers, the main reasons were that there weren't any flights available for the same price, or that the voucher had expired before they could use it.

The consumer advocacy group also found almost three-quarters of Australians who've had a flight cancelled due to Covid-19 have received a flight voucher, and more than a fifth (21 per cent) of Australians who've tried to use their flight voucher have been unable to do so.

"It's very concerning that so many Australians have been unable to use the flight vouchers given to them due to Covid-19 related cancellations that were completely out of their hands," says Choice campaigner Dean Price.

"When it came to the people who actually were able to use their flight vouchers, almost a third had to pay more than the original cost of the flight."

A family walking through an airport with trolleys of luggage.
Choice found 72 per cent of Australians who’ve had a flight cancelled due to Covid-19 received a flight voucher instead of a refund. Source: AAP

Qantas respond to price gouge claims

A spokesperson for Qantas said there is still a "huge amount of flexibility" around using flight vouchers.

“At the start of the pandemic, we removed virtually all of the rules we had around flight credits given the huge disruption to people’s travel plans," a statement supplied to Yahoo News Australia read.

“When the borders started to stabilise last September, we put some of those rules back, but still offered a huge amount of flexibility compared to pre-Covid. Previously, that flexibility was only included in the more expensive fares.

“Right now, if people book a flight and then choose not to go, they get a flight credit with some rules attached – which is what that customer you spoke to has. This would account for less than 5 per cent of the flight credits we are currently holding. And if there are extenuating circumstances, we encourage people to talk to us.

“If we cancel the flight, people have complete flexibility, including a cash refund or rebooking any type of fare, to the value of their credit.

“The message for customers is that we offer a lot more flexibility with booking than pre-Covid, but we still have some rules in place. We’re completely transparent about that and other major airlines have a similar approach.”

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