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The Spirit of Disappointment: CHOICE Shonkys

Qantas lets down customers again and again.

CHOICE Travel Expert Jodi Bird

Consumer advocate CHOICE has awarded Qantas a Shonky for disappointing customers on almost every front: unusable flight credits, delayed flights, disappearing baggage, and endless call wait times. 

"If there was ever a company that appeared to deliberately be going out of its way to win a Shonky Award, it's Qantas," says CHOICE travel expert Jodi Bird.

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"People are still paying premium prices to fly Qantas, but it's clear from the complaints we've heard, they're not getting a premium service."

Troublesome travel credits have been a particular sore point for customers since the outset of COVID-19. In April this year, a CHOICE investigation revealed Qantas and Jetstar combined were sitting on $1.4 billion in unused consumer flight credits and future bookings. 

"Qantas has made it difficult and confusing for their customers to use flight credits for cancelled travel. This includes forcing many people to spend extra money, putting limits on available flights, being unable to make bookings using credits online – the list goes on," says Bird.

For consumers who need to reach Qantas directly by phone, a September 2022 CHOICE mystery shop found that won't be easy.

"Our research revealed on average, you'll be on the phone for 21 minutes before your call is answered, and up to 50 minutes. By comparison, Virgin came in under a quarter of that average time with five minutes wait, and a maximum of 13 minutes," says Bird.

CHOICE has called for stronger consumer protections for all travellers.

"The laws that left travellers in cancellation chaos throughout 2020 remain the same today. Businesses are allowed to write the rules, so anyone who has paid for travel that is then cancelled needs to wade through unclear terms and conditions, as thousands of Qantas customers have been left to do," says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland

"CHOICE has put forward a clear plan to governments about how to ensure that people are treated fairly in the travel market. We now need federal, state and territory governments and industry to work together to make travel easier and fairer."

Case study: Michael Harding, a Qantas customer from Queensland, is one of many people who have lost money to Qantas over the past few years. "If I had the money, I would take legal action. The problem is that I have no idea how to resolve my complaint," says Harding.

In 2021, Harding lost over $1,000 worth of travel credits when the vouchers Qantas gave him expired before he could use them due to border closures. He and his wife are also out of pocket almost $700 for flights booked earlier this year that were cancelled by Qantas due to bad weather.

"For customers like Michael and the hundreds of others we've heard from our national carrier has repeatedly failed to meet expectations. Qantas might call itself the Spirit of Australia, but we think Spirit of Disappointment is more appropriate. It is well and truly deserving of receiving a Shonky Award this year," says Kirkland.

Editor's notes: 

In 2021, CHOICE surveyed over 4,400 Australians who had travel plans disrupted by COVID-19 and called on the Australian government to fix Australia's travel cancellation chaos through implementing urgent reforms including: 

  • Changes to make it easier for people to receive refunds.
  • Minimum voucher/credit rights.
  • A mandatory industry code for all airlines and large travel providers.
  • A travel and tourism industry ombudsman.
  • A mandatory information standard at time of booking.
  • An ACCC market study into the travel and tourism sector.

In 2022, CHOICE filed a complaint with the ACCC, to determine if Qantas's terms and conditions for flight vouchers amounts to unfair contract terms under the Australian Consumer Law, and if Qantas's communications to customers about flight credits could be classified as misleading and deceptive conduct. 

Do you support stronger consumer protections for travellers? Sign the petition 

The 2022 CHOICE Shonkys are:

Qantas - for being the Spirit of Disappointment 

VetPay - for a finance product targeting distressed pet owners

Steggles Chicken Nuggets Boosted with Veggies - for hiding veggies so well that we could barely find them

Bloomex - for flowers that don't deliver 

Zega Digital cookware - for an expensive "self-cooking" smart pot that doesn't properly cook

Media contact: 0430 172 669, 

CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland, CHOICE Managing Editor Marg Rafferty and CHOICE experts are available for interview. Other media releases, photos, video and graphics are available for media use here: