When Qantas announced in mid-March that it was giving customers an extra 12 months to use the hundreds of millions of dollars of flight credits the airline has on the books due to COVID-19 lockdowns, it was a step in the right direction.
But there was a catch – the same one that applied when CHOICE filed a complaint about the airline's tactics with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in April 2022.
The airline now holds about $800 million in unused credits
At that time, Qantas was sitting on approximately $1.4 billion dollars in unused flight credits and future bookings, but using a credit was not easy – or even possible – for many. (The airline now holds about $800 million in unused credits.)
Conditions for using credits
Then as now, some customers who've had to cancel flights due to the pandemic can only use their credits for flights that cost the same or more than their original fare if they originally booked after 30 September 2021.
For instance, for some customers, if you have a $500 credit for a Sydney to Melbourne flight and the price is now $475, you wouldn't be able to use the credit to pay for it, even if you waived the $25 loss. Instead, you'd have to buy a new ticket and leave your credit untouched.
If you have a $500 credit for a Sydney to Melbourne flight and the price is now $475, you wouldn't be able to use your credit to pay for it, even if you waived the $25 loss
It's also not possible to transfer your credits to another person or use the credits for multiple bookings, a restriction that would be affecting many customers.
If you have $10,000 worth of credits for an overseas trip you had to cancel because of COVID and can no longer take, for instance, you can't use the credits for multiple domestic flights.
And restrictions on the use of credits is not the only problem with Qantas's credit redemption system.
Most complained about company
CHOICE has heard from many Qantas customers who've had to pay significantly more when using a credit for the same flight, and getting in touch with the airline to sort out issues is often a time-consuming and frustrating process.
People should have the choice to transfer the credits to other people, as well as split the credits over a number of transactionsCHOICE head of policy Patrick Veyret
It's no surprise, then, that complaints about the airline to the ACCC in 2021–22 were 68% higher than the previous financial year, or that Qantas was the most complained about company to the regulator in 2021–22.
CHOICE head of policy and government relations Patrick Veyret says "CHOICE gave Qantas a 2022 Shonky award in large part for its unfair flight credit system, which has let customers down time and time again over the past few years.
"Flight credits should work like gift cards. People should have the choice to transfer the credits to other people, as well as split the credits over a number of transactions."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.