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Qantas customer complaints under investigation as ACCC says airline not ‘realistic’ about flights it could serve | Qantas

By on September 7, 2022 0

The consumer watchdog is investigating Qantas after customer complaints about delayed or canceled flights, and predicts more air travel chaos over the Christmas holidays.

Flight delays and cancellations were at their worst levels outside of the pandemic period and domestic travel would not return to normal until next year as airlines scramble to bolster their workforces, the agency said. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in a report on Wednesday.

Flights operated by all airlines have been disrupted in recent months but Qantas, the national carrier which controls more than 60% of the market, has borne the brunt of the complaints.

Gina Cass-Gottlieb, the chair of the ACCC, told the Guardian Australia that Qantas ‘has not properly made a realistic assessment of the number of flights they could serve’ as air travel rebounded from the pandemic .

“We are currently investigating a number of complaints, so we have an ongoing commitment, if I put it that way, as our investigations are confidential until we reach a point of conclusion,” she said.

She said the ACCC had received the complaints about Qantas over the past few months, but declined to say exactly what potential consumer law breaches the regulator was investigating.

“We will look wherever we see there is evidence of misleading statements by an airline regarding how it sold its services,” she said.

“If we have evidence of misleading statements, we will pursue and investigate those aspects.”

ACCC President Gina Cass-Gottlieb said the number of delayed and canceled flights lately was “not enough”. Photography: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

A Qantas spokesperson said: ‘Qantas takes its obligations to comply with Australian consumer law very seriously and we will respond to any inquiries we receive from the ACCC.

In a report on Wednesday, the ACCC said on-time flights were at an all-time low, with just 55% of flights arriving on time in July compared to the long-term average of 81. .9%.

And 6.1% of flights were cancelled, more than three times the long-term average of 2.1%, but less than the April 2020 peak, when a third of flights were canceled due to lockdowns and border closures.

“It’s not good enough,” Cass-Gottlieb said.

She said there were multiple factors driving the crisis that were beyond the airlines’ control, including problems with airport security and air traffic control.

“What is much more in the control of the airlines is that they can be realistic about the number of flights they can reliably serve, given their level of staff, and take bookings for that. number of flights and not for more flights,” she said.

The ACCC also hopes airlines will start to compete on service, noting that regional airline Rex, which boasts of retaining staff during the pandemic, had the lowest cancellation rate in July – at 2.1% against 6.2% at Qantas, 8.8% at Jetstar, the budget arm of Qantas, and 7.7% at Virgin.

Qantas has cut its workforce by around 7,800 while much of its fleet has been grounded during the pandemic, and laid off an additional 2,000 contractors.

He has since hired 1,500 more people, but says tight labor markets make recruitment difficult.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to apologize after he blamed customers for not being “fit” to fly as queues snaked around airports in April.

The company is also mired in labor disputes with licensed aeronautical engineers, who went on strike for a minute a fortnight ago, and flight attendants, where long-running negotiations for a new deal covering flights interiors are stalled.

There are also problems in baggage handling, which Qantas outsources to three other companies, with workers at one operator, Dnata, set to go on strike on Monday and those at another, Menzies, preparing to vote for industrial action, while the transport workers’ union is campaigning. against the third, Swissport, for security issues, including firearms left on public baggage carousels.

Cass-Gottlieb said the ACCC has no role in industrial relations.

“We are focusing on the consequences of this [industrial action] and the ability to be reliable and truthful in what is represented to consumers when offered a flight and to expect the flight to depart reasonably on time and certainly not be canceled,” he said. she declared.

The ACCC predicts it will be “well into 2023” before aviation staffing levels return to what is needed.