Australian flag carrier Qantas has issued a contrite apology to passengers after openly acknowledging that its “service standards fell well short” and that its reputation has been “hit hard on several fronts”.
The grovelling apology came just days after Australian regulators launched a massive multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the airline, alleging Qantas persistently continued to sell tickets for flights that had already been cancelled and failed to tell passengers that their flights had been axed until days before departure.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it had found evidence that Qantas openly sold tickets for more than 8,000 cancelled flights during a three-month period from May to July 2022.
In one case, Qantas allegedly cancelled an international flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles nine days before scheduled departure but carried out selling tickets for another five days and only told passengers that the flight wasn’t going ahead two days before they were due to show up at the airport.
Qantas says it takes the allegations seriously, but the airline immediately took a defensive approach towards the lawsuit, arguing that the period covered by the investigation was a “time of unprecedented upheaval for the entire airline industry”.
On Monday, Qantas said it was still reviewing the lawsuit but that it wanted to address the allegations “without cutting across the legal process we are now involved in”.
“We openly acknowledge that our service standards fell well short, and we sincerely apologise. We have worked hard to fix them since, and that work continues,” the airline said in a statement.
“The ACCC’s allegations come at a time when Qantas’ reputation has already been hit hard on several fronts,” the statement continued.
“We want the community to know that we hear and understand their disappointment. We know that the only way to fix it is by delivering consistently. We know it will take time to repair. And we are absolutely determined to do that.”
Qantas has taken a beating in recent days over its post-COVID performance, with a slew of bad news heaping pressure on the embattled airline.
Last week, the airline was forced into an embarrassing u-turn over COVID travel vouchers that were due to expire in December 2023 after the ACCC discovered that Qantas owed consumers much more in flight refunds than previously thought.
Qantas has now backed down and removed the expiration date on the travel vouchers and offered customers a full cash refund if they would prefer.
Outgoing CEO Alan Joyce also faced a grilling from lawmakers last week, but he refused to answer questions about membership criteria to the airline’s ultra-exclusive Chairman’s Lounge after it was revealed that the Prime Minister’s 23-year-old son had somehow been granted membership.
An internal review of membership rules is now reportedly underway.
The controversial chief executive, whose pay package attracted a lot of attention during the pandemic, was recently awarded a $10 million bonus in shares – a decision that unions representing frontline workers at the carrier have blasted as a “swindle”.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.