Airlines, lift your game


If there’s one thing Australians love to do that’s been most affected by the pandemic in the past few years it has to be travel.

I have felt genuinely sorry for the way travel restrictions have hit many businesses, especially in regional communities. I remember visiting Cairns in mid-2021, seeing the dock area that would normally be buzzing with backpackers setting off on excursions to the reef, now completely deserted. And I remember the strain on the face of a local shop owner on the NSW south coast who had just emerged from a summer of bushfires to face almost a year of no tourists due to COVID.

But when it comes to some of our largest travel businesses, I’m sometimes less sympathetic. When, last November, we gave a Shonky Award to Qantas, it retorted that we had failed to take account of the impact of COVID on the aviation industry. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

In all of our work over the past few years, we’ve acknowledged that there are some things beyond a business’s control. Our focus is on the things they can control to treat their customers fairly – and there’s a lot more that our airlines could be doing.

First, they could be clear about the terms and conditions of a booking. In recent months I’ve booked flights with Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar, and none of the booking confirmations contained information on my refund rights if a flight had to be cancelled. Given how often flights continue to be cancelled, that information should be easy to find.

Second, they can make it easy to rebook when they cancel your flights. I’ve been able to use some of my flight credits in a few simple clicks online, but other attempts have involved hours in phone queues, sometimes across multiple calls. A credit represents money that you’ve already paid them, so they should make it easy to use.

Third, they can give fast refunds. Some airlines are still claiming they need up to eight weeks to process a refund. Given they can process a payment in less than a second, they need to do better when it comes to returning payment for a service they haven’t provided.

Finally, they can avoid price gouging. Almost every week, I bump into somebody who’s had to book or change a flight at the last minute and been astonished by the outrageous fares being demanded, especially by Qantas. I accept that last-minute flights will often cost more, but when an airline is charging more than $1000 one way from Sydney to Melbourne, it reeks of price gouging.

These suggestions all boil down to a few simple principles: transparency, fairness and care for customers. Surely that’s not too much to ask.


Hi Alan
The state of Australian airlines is a significant consumer issue. I’m on the ‘Why we hate Jetstar’ Facebook page where daily people are documenting last minute cancellations, often stranding people overseas or somewhere with few affordable viable options to get home - and that’s just one airline.

Under Australian aviation laws there appears nothing stopping an airline cancelling a person’s flight, knowing the passenger will have to then pay a much higher last minute price to get where they are going or get home…(on the airlines partner airline maybe??).

I’ve seen Jetstar do this enough to now suspect it is a business model to sell people a cheap return ticket, but with no intention of ever bringing them home at the original price! Cynical? Sure. But see how often it happens. It’s ‘Bait and switch’.

The issue is little regulation or compensation stopping this bait and switch tactic.

Time to regulate this appalling industry.

I think anyone who had their flight cancelled leaving them stranded with an Australian airline, should share their experience with relevant (Transport) Minister…

The Hon Catherine King MP contact details
Parliament Office
Tel: +61 2 6277 7520

Would further suggest that everyone (and Choice!) request the govt consider bring in passenger rights legislation with compensation, and include a link to:

drawing the Ministers attention to compensation to be paid, for example, any flight cancelled with 2-weeks of departure requires compensation to be paid!

Time to advocate for regulations with teeth to stop the behaviour we are seeing from Australian airlines.


Progress of sorts? At least government will need to respond having to consider the need and options.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, consumer advocate Choice and the Australian Lawyers Alliance have all separately raised the prospect of a compensation scheme as the government considers its aviation white paper.

Advocates of such a scheme claim local laws are “lagging behind the rest of the world”, pointing to the EU’s air passenger compensation laws as an ideal model for Australia to consider.
Australian airline passengers could soon receive compensation for delays and cancellations | Business | The Guardian

To note Choice is one of those supportive of the need for better compensation. Perhaps the new CEO of Qantas will bringing greater understanding and compassion to the business? Although there’s a long handover ahead.


Unsurprisingly the airlines are pushing back. The shallowness of their claim about raising prices does not ring true to me. If they charged the costs of running a reliable airline and ran one, compensation for non-performance would be a very minor issue.

That the airlines are self serving and feel they are above delivering ‘customer service’ is not all that surprising. My cynical nature expects any compensation scheme enacted to be as poorly drafted as our other ‘protections’ with ‘consider’, ‘might be’, ‘if’ and so on interspersed in window dressing type wording to give the airlines a hand hold to escape accountability.


One might to catch the train instead?

Read further on how well you are looked after for other disruptions.

Appalling. It is not just our 2 majors. Rex to the ‘game’. Skip a stop and tell the pax too bad?

The cost of air travel was supposed to return to pre-Covid norms.

The Guardian suggests:

Domestic air fares in Australia have increased by 22.6% between 2019 and 2022, the AAA said, with an increase of 19.3% between the first quarters of 2020 and 2023.

Our observations of fares on routes we have flown often it appears more like a 50% increase.

1 Like

Spare a thought for those living across “the ditch”.
If the following sounds familiar, Qantas is not the only national carrier in the black. Air New Zealand has bounced back to profitability off surging prices.

The CEO is saying the higher prices charged are required to pay in the future for aircraft to provide more seats and flights. Supposedly flying more planes will enable air NZ to lower fares. No problem however delivering a special dividend out of the profits to the loyal shareholders.

Is Air NZ relevant to the Aussie market? It is as a direct competitor on trans Tasman flights and codeshares.

For several months now, Virgin have failed to provide entertainment on intercontinental flights we have been on, claiming “technical” faults on several different planes. Sometimes they tell you in advance but not always. If they are no longer providing entertainment, why don’t they just say so.

How to encourage customers to go elsewhere next time. The longer the flight the greater the displeasure.

Perhaps we have been fortunate? For recent return flights between Australia and NZ ex Melbourne and also Brisbane we had the full package on each leg. The only grumble was the USB charger connection in the seat did not function.

Airlines still behaving badly with too many flights getting the chop

The outgoing chief executive of Sydney Airport, Geoff Culbert, may only have two weeks left in the job, but that hasn’t stopped him from lobbing a grenade at the airlines on his way out.

Culbert also shot holes in the regular excuses given by airlines for cancelled flights. His message for them is simple: stop blaming bad weather or the lack of air traffic controllers.

“For the record, there were 17 days in September where there were no weather or air traffic issues. Yet on those days, outbound and inbound on the Sydney-Melbourne route, there were still 184 cancellations, or 52 per cent of the total for the month.”

“In what industry is it deemed acceptable to cancel up to 1 in 5 services? The 80/20 rule incentivises slot hoarding, rather penalising it, and so long as the 80/20 rule remains in place, slot hoarding will continue, and passengers will pay the price,”

Another aspect is the long time our airlines take to issue refunds. There is little rhyme or reason and they can take 6 weeks+.

In contrast I had an issue on a Lufthansa flight on 30 May, the flight crew issued a complaint on my behalf and a compensation ‘cheque’ was in my account on 10 June.

The EU appears not to cater to airlines as does our own government where airlines seemingly make their own minimalist ‘rules’ and government approves them.