Investigations by Slater and Gordon have revealed tens’ of thousands of Australians are being shortchanged by major airlines, travel agents and tour companies after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their travel plans.
The leading class action law firm believes that major travel providers, including Qantas and Jetstar, may have breached their legal obligations by putting in place travel voucher schemes that significantly disadvantage their customers.
Practice Group Leader Andrew Paull said the affected customers may be able to participate in a class action against their travel providers.
Mr Paull said the firm has spoken with holidaymakers who have been left thousands of dollars out of pocket and holding vouchers that they may never be able to use.
Others felt they were forced to cancel ahead of airline announcements to get back a portion of their fares, only to be hit with hefty cancellation fees.
“We understand that everyone is doing it tough at present, including the major airlines and travel companies, but that doesn’t give them an excuse to take advantage of their customers. Nor is it acceptable for Qantas shareholders to treat the money it owes to ordinary Australians like its own,” Mr Paull said.
“We believe cash refunds should be returned to customers, who almost certainly need that money right now, rather than in bank accounts gathering interest for airline shareholders.
“We call on businesses like Qantas and Jetstar to do the right thing and honour their obligations to their customers. If they won’t do so, then it’s only reasonable for those customers to look at recovering their money through a class action.”
The issues uncovered by Slater and Gordon include airlines:
- issuing ticketholders on cancelled flights with travel vouchers rather than cash refunds, which may be a breach of the airlines’ conditions.
- relying on blanket ‘no refund’ clauses in its terms and conditions, despite having been previously warned by the ACCC that these clauses will not always be binding
- convincing customers to exchange their tickets for restricted travel vouchers. The airlines have presented this as an act of generosity, however many customers will have had greater rights if they had held on their ticket, than if they exchanged it for a restricted travel voucher. By doing so, the airlines may have misled their customers.
- continuing to offer and accept payment for international flights, including to Bali, departing as soon as 1 June 2020, despite Government advice that the current travel bans will remain in place for the long term.
Slater and Gordon understands that similar practices are being undertaken by Qantas and Jetstar, as well as many other airlines, travel agents and cruise companies.
Anyone who has received a credit travel voucher by an airline, tour or cruise operator or a travel agency is urged to contact Slater and Gordon on: slatergordon.com.au/travel-vouchers
Slater and Gordon Practice Group Leader Andrew Paull