Qantas, Australia’s flag-carrying airline, has published a detailed defence to accusations by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that it sold tickets to customers for flights that had already been cancelled.

The airline released its response after filing the defence with the Federal Court, where it is facing action from the ACCC and said that while it acknowledged that it let customers down during the post-pandemic period, by ensuring that nearly all affected customers were able to travel within an acceptable period of their original flight, they had complied with consumer law.

Qantas said: “We acknowledge there were delays and we sincerely regret that this occurred, but crucially, it does not equate to Qantas obtaining a ‘fee for no service’ because customers were re-accommodated on other flights as close as possible to their original time or offered a full refund.”

Alongside the claim that the airline had sold tickets for roughly 8,000 already cancelled flights, the ACCC also said that Qantas had not been quick enough to notify customers on 10,000 flights of cancellations.

In its response, the Australian flag carrier airline attributed the delays to giving its team time to establish alternative travel options and avoiding “blowouts” in call centre wait times, while also admitting that some of the longer delays could be put down to human error.

The airline was also keen to point out that 100% of affected domestic passengers were offered flights travelling earlier in the day than their booked flight or within one hour after the scheduled departure. Additionally, it said that 98% of international passengers were offered flights within a day of their original scheduled departure. 

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However, in the ACCC’s claim, chairperson Gina Cass-Gottlieb said that the regulator believed that by waiting to alert customers, Qantas gave them less time to make alternative arrangements and may have led to customers paying higher prices to fly at particular times without knowing that they would not be able to fly at their chosen time.

While Qantas has just filed its defence, the airline’s new CEO Vanessa Hudson had already released a public video apology to customers in which she said that the company needed to earn back customer trust and was working on improving its practices on issues such as increasing capacity in all its centres.

According to the ACCC, Qantas sold tickets for cancelled flights for an average of two weeks and up to 47 days during the period between May and July 2022, while it failed to inform ticketholders of flight cancellations for an average of 18 days and up to 48 days in the same period.

In addition to responding to the ACCC’s claims, Qantas has also begun a board renewal plan as it deals with the fallout of the current court action and other issues, such as the loss of a lawsuit around the outsourcing of ground handling work in 2020.