‘Basically price gouging’: MP takes aim at Qantas over alleged deceptive conduct

Andrew Wilkie has found Qantas' booking process to be shifty.

Andrew Wilkie has found Qantas' booking process to be shifty. Photo: TND/AAP/Getty

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie is sounding the alarm over alleged deceptive conduct by Qantas, adding to the airline’s pile of woes.

Wilkie announced his decision to lodge a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission via an X post on Christmas Day, in which he wrote he was “speaking up for people who’ve had a gutfull [sic] of greedy airlines”.

The Tasmanian MP told The New Daily community feedback and his own experiences booking flights throughout this year led him to find that while it was easy to book cheap tickets or use Qantas frequent flyer points for outbound flights, return flights tended to be more expensive.

“I’m not talking simply about school holidays, I’m talking about through the whole year. [So] I don’t think it is a supply and demand issue. I’m concerned that it might be a systemic issue,” he said.

“When it comes to Australian airlines, I would hope they are good corporate citizens and would not be knowingly engaging in deceptive conduct. And if they can’t be [good corporate citizens], then we need better consumer protections.”

Although airlines can charge what they want for airfares and potential passengers are free to decide if they will pay that price, Wilkie took issue with Qantas’s “deceptive conduct” in its booking system, particularly for international flights.

Travellers can book with multiple airlines for a single trip, but Wilkie said Qantas was “messing with human nature” by hooking people with a cheap initial ticket.

He said they were “emotionally invested” in the booking process by the time it came to book a return flight, and scared of losing their cheap initial ticket if they left the webpage for too long to look for a cheaper fare from a rival airline.

“Yesterday, I sat down … and I looked at a number of overseas destinations. In almost every case, you could get a frequent flyer ticket there, and the only way to get home was an expensive cash ticket,” he said.

“The net effect is that it’s still an expensive trip. Qantas might be letting you have a frequent-flyer ticket one way, then they’re basically price-gouging money [on the return ticket].

“There’s no saving, because what do you save on the frequent flyer sector, Qantas claws back with excessive fees on the return sector.”

Qantas rejects claims

A Qantas spokesperson said the airline “strongly rejects” Wilkie’s claims, and pointed to Boxing Day sale fares, which are available in “both directions of travel” until sold out.

“For example, Adelaide to Melbourne $136 one way and Melbourne back to Adelaide $136 one way, for travel from February to April,” they said.

“In some instances, one direction of travel will sell out prior to the return direction of travel and, as with all our sales, the most popular routes sell out first.”

Wilkie’s submission to the ACCC is yet to be lodged, and with his office closed for the holidays, he said the complaint would likely be submitted after Australia Day.

If the ACCC chooses to investigate, it will add to growing pressure on Qantas, which is already fighting allegations from the consumer watchdog that it sold tickets on thousands of cancelled flights.

The airline is also pushing back at calls to compensate customers for flight delays and cancellations and is being taken to court over barring an assistance dog from a flight.

Earlier this year, Qantas was found guilty of breaching workplace health and safety laws and illegally outsourcing 1700 jobs during the pandemic.

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