ACCC probing QantasLink’s Launceston cancellations

CANCELLED: QantasLink cancelled 3.7 per cent of its Launceston flights in the six months to March.
CANCELLED: QantasLink cancelled 3.7 per cent of its Launceston flights in the six months to March.

Australia’s competition watchdog is investigating QantasLink’s Launceston cancellation rate to examine if the airline is in breach of Australian Consumer Law.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will look into the reasons behind the airline’s 3.7 per cent cancellation rate in Launceston for the six months to March – a figure 18.5 times higher than Jetstar – and its 3.3 per cent cancellation rate from January 2017 to April 2018.

The investigation comes after Tasmanian Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson wrote to the ACCC claiming QantasLink may be in breach of consumer law for shifting customers onto Jetstar flights after cancellations.

A Qantas Group spokesman said it took its obligations under Australian Consumer Law very seriously.

“Our regional network, including services to Launceston, had been impacted by engineering delays, bad weather and resourcing issues,” he said.

“We aim to minimise delays for customers so if there is a Jetstar flight with availability departing earlier than the next QantasLink flight, we’ll transfer customers on that flight to get them on their way.”

I have had confidential discussions with staff who have informed me that Qantas has a deliberate internal practice of de-prioritising services between Launceston and Melbourne.

Tasmanian Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson

In a letter sent to the ACCC, and seen by The Examiner, Senator Whish-Wilson claimed the cancellation rate in Launceston was systemic.  

“I have had confidential discussions with staff who have informed me that Qantas has a deliberate internal practice of de-prioritising services between Launceston and Melbourne,” he said. “I am led to believe that part of the rationale for this approach is that passengers are able to be transferred to Launceston’s Jetstar services, which is not the case on some other routes.”

ACCC chief operation officer Rayne de Gruchy said in a letter sent to Senator Whish-Wilson, and seen by The Examiner, that the body would investigate whether QantasLink was in breach of consumer law.

“The ACCC is giving further consideration to the Australian Consumer Law issues highlighted in our report Airlines: Terms and Conditions, particularly those related to potential misrepresentations to airline passengers,” he said.

“An update will be provided to [Senator Whish-Wilson] following the conclusion of these investigations.”

The aforementioned report was released in December and examined issues in the aviation industry relating to consumer rights and contract terms that may be inequitable. 

It mentioned that some customers raised concerns that airlines had lied about the reasons for cancelling flights. 

“[Some customers] speculate that an airline’s decision to cancel a flight due to low passenger numbers has been presented as being cancelled for a different reason,” the report said. 

“This issue is of significant concern to the ACCC.”

The [Qantas] Group is taking proactive steps to mitigate the impacts of the crew shortage in both the short and medium-term.

Qantas Group executive for government, industry international and environment Andrew Parker

Qantas Group executive for government, industry international and environment Andrew Parker contacted Senator Whish-Wilson to refute his claims. 

He reiterated that the only reason for cancellations was due to a shortage of resources.

“The [Qantas] Group is taking proactive steps to mitigate the impacts of the crew shortage in both the short and medium-term,” he said. “A process is underway to select the location for the Qantas Group Pilot Academy, which will open in a city in regional Australia in 2019.”