Travel agency’s swipe at Government decision to block cheaper flights

Flight Centre boss Graham Turner rips into Qatar Airways rejection after Anthony Albanese sided with Qantas 

  • Aussies lose chance to enjoy 40% cheaper airfares 
  • Qantas Australia’s most complained about company

The CEO of a top travel agency has slammed a decision to not allow Qatar to operate more flights in Australia which would have made tickets cheaper for Aussies.

Flight Centre boss Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner said the decision ‘got up the nose’ of travellers with the agency taking out full page ads to protest the move.

Qatar Airways was knocked back after the airline requested up to 29 extra flights every week from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Australians could have paid 40 per cent less for flights had the Doha-based airline’s bid been approved.

Qantas had lobbied against the proposal claiming it would ‘distort the market’ with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese siding with the airline, and his decision sparking outrage and raising public scrutiny about his relationship with Alan Joyce.

Flight Centre’s ads protesting the rejection of Qatar’s bid read, ‘More seats drive down prices’ and urged: ‘Let ’em fly’.

The airfare controversy comes amid growing unease at Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's special relationship with Alan Joyce , the under fire, outgoing boss of Qantas

Qatar Airways' request for up to 29 extras flights every week from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports was knocked back, denying passengers cheaper flights. The main beneficiary was Qantas

Some estimates said Australians could have paid 40 per cent less for flights had the Doha-based airline's bid been approved

The ads were approved by Mr Turner who lashed out at the government.

‘It’s amazing how much this particular decision by the government has got up the average Australian’s nose,’ Mr Turner told the Courier Mail.

He said Flight Centre’s ad campaign would continue ‘unless the government acts’ and reverses its controversial decision.

The government justified its rejection of Qatar Airway’s application as being in the ‘national interest’.

The major beneficiary of the decision was Qantas, whose reputation has never been worse after repeated controversies including selling tickets for cancelled flights, delays, staff shortages and baggage handling horror stories.

Qantas faces a deceptive conduct suit over the ticket sales in the Federal Court, brought by Australia’s competition watchdog, which also confirmed the national airline is the country’s most complained-about business.

But the government’s decision has not only proved wildly unpopular with the public, but also with its own allies.

Labor’s national president Wayne Swan called for a review of the decision.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission boss Gina Cass-Gottlieb said prices would’ve fallen if Qatar had been allowed to operate more flights. 

Virgin Australia estimated airfares may have fallen as much as 40 per cent if the decision had gone the other way.

The airfare controversy comes amid growing unease at Mr Albanese’s special relationship with Mr Joyce.

Mr Joyce, who was awarded bonuses of up to $10million, has overseen a steady descent in the national carrier’s standing with the public, albeit through a period when all airlines suffered as people stopped travelling due to the Covid pandemic.

Flight Centre's ad campaign would continue 'unless the government acts' and reverses its controversial decision

The ACCC also confirmed it ‘continues to receive more complaints about Qantas than about any other business’ the same day it announced its Federal Court action.

The competition watchdog alleges Qantas ‘engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct, by advertising tickets for more than 8,000 flights that it had already cancelled but not removed from sale.’

The ACCC alleges it continued to sell the tickets for an average of more than two weeks, and up to 47 days in some cases.

It’s also alleging the airline didn’t notify existing ticket holders for 10,000 flights that they had been cancelled for an average of 18 days, and up to 48 days, between May and July 2022.

This left customers less time to make alternative arrangements and may have led to them paying higher prices.

Qantas cancelled a quarter of its flights between May and July 2022, which amounted to about 15,000, the watchdog said.

‘As a result, we have commenced these proceedings alleging that Qantas continued selling tickets for thousands of cancelled flights, likely affecting the travel plans of tens of thousands of people,’ Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

‘This case does not involve any alleged breach in relation to the actual cancellation of flights, but rather relates to Qantas’ conduct after it had cancelled the flights.’

The ACCC is seeking penalties, injunctions, declarations and costs.

Mr Joyce is due to step down at the Qantas annual shareholder meeting in November, a date which would allow him to celebrate 15 years in charge. 

He faced heavy flak in an intense grilling by politicians at a Senate hearing last week.

Labor MPs wouldn’t have enjoyed hearing Mr Joyce confirm he’d been friends with Mr Albanese ‘for years’ during his grilling at the Senate cost-of-living committee on Monday, with those two words effectively confirming just how close the two men had become.

During the hearing, Mr Joyce also refused to answer questions on his decision to gift the PM’s son a membership to the prestigious Chairman’s Lounge and was asked if he was ’embarrassed’ about his $24million salary.

Faced with the reality of legal action in the Federal Court, Qantas backed down on a controversial deadline that threatened to strip passengers owed flight credits worth $370 million.

Qantas customers owed flight refunds were previously they’d have to claim them by the end of December.

The huge backlog in travel credits built up during the Covid pandemic when flights were cancelled worldwide amid widespread border closures. 

Passengers queue at Virgin Austr Australian flag carrier Qantas took the drastic step of grounding its entire fleet indefinitely in an escalating industrial dispute in 2011

The ACCC said 'continues to receive more complaints about Qantas than about any other business' the same day it announced Federal Court action against the national carrier for selling tickets on cancelled flights. Pictured, ACCC boss Gina Cass-Gottlieb

The ads were approved by Graham 'Skroo' Turner, the travel giant's global managing director, lashed out at the government

The reversal will allow customers who had flights cancelled before October 2021 to retain the flight credits indefinitely for a refund, Qantas confirmed on Thursday.

They are also offering a limited time deal to double their Frequent Flyer points for flights booked with relevant travel credits before December 31, 2023.

‘The Qantas Group will remove the expiry date on Covid travel credits that were due to run out at the end of this year,’ said a spokesman.

‘Qantas customers with Covid credits can request a cash refund, and Jetstar customers can use their Covid vouchers for flights, indefinitely.


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