Class action could target Qantas, travel agents for cash refunds

Had your travel plans cancelled? A major law firm is seeking cash refunds for would-be travellers who were given vouchers instead.

By Chris Chamberlin, May 7 2020
Class action could target Qantas, travel agents for cash refunds

Melbourne-based law firm Slater and Gordon is sizing up class action lawsuits against airlines, travel agencies, cruise operators and tour companies over their refusal to provide travellers with refunds for cancelled trips.

Qantas, Jetstar, Flight Centre and Webjet are among the businesses called out by the firm for pushing travel credits or vouchers instead of a full refund.

Also in Slater and Gordon's cross-hairs is the practice of airlines selling seats on international flights from Australia that are highly unlikely to depart.

When those flights are ultimately cancelled by the airlines, the customer may again be faced with the prospect of receiving a travel credit or voucher rather than a cash refund.

“We understand that everyone is doing it tough at present, including the major airlines and travel companies,” acknowledges Slater and Gordon Practice Group Leader Andrew Paull, “but that doesn’t give them an excuse to take advantage of their customers.”

“We believe cash refunds should be returned to customers, who almost certainly need that money right now, rather than (remaining) in bank accounts gathering interest for airline shareholders.”

The firm believes tens of thousands of Australians may be affected by these travel industry practices, which could make them eligible to participate in an eventual class action claim, seeking to convert their existing travel credit into a cash refund.

Slater and Gordon is inviting would-be travellers who have received travel credits or vouchers in lieu of cash refunds to register their interest in a possible class action claim against their travel provider, to recover their cash.

What have travel providers done wrong?

Slater and Gordon holds that many travel providers, “including Qantas and Jetstar, may have breached their legal obligations by putting in place travel voucher schemes that significantly disadvantage their customers.”

Some airlines were also believed to be holding onto customers’ cash by accepting payment for highly questionable international leisure flights, which would inevitably be cancelled.

One example given is both Qantas and Jetstar recently selling flights from Australia to Bali with departure dates as soon as June 1 2020, despite Government travel bans and the recent implication that even trans-Tasman travel may not resume until late June or early July at the earliest, let alone broader overseas flying.

“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,” Paull elaborates.

It is “not acceptable for Qantas shareholders to treat the money it owes to ordinary Australians like its own,” he adds.

The day after Paull’s comments were made on May 4, Qantas announced it would be blocking ticket sales on international flights set to depart before August 1, except for trans-Tasman routes, which are currently on sale from July 1.

Read: Qantas extends coronavirus flight cancellations to July

How to register your interest in a class action claim

If your travel plans have been impacted by the coronavirus and you’ve received a travel voucher instead of a refund, you can register your details on the Slater and Gordon website.

Slater and Gordon is seeking people affected by flight cancellations from Australian airlines, as well as those impacted by airline cancellations on journeys to or from Australia operated by overseas-based carriers.

This includes not only Qantas and Jetstar, but also Air New Zealand, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and more.

While Virgin Australia and Tigerair are both currently in voluntary administration, submissions from customers of these brands are being accepted too.

However, these airlines have temporarily paused issuing new refunds – and even new travel credits – until otherwise directed by the administrator, as part of that administration process.

Customers of tour companies and cruise operators whose voyages were similarly axed are also invited to register their details.

There’s no cost to register your interest via the Slater and Gordon website, where further information is available.

Also read: How to get a refund on cancelled Qantas flights

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 158

At what point does the option of seeking a charge-back on your credit card come into play if an airline cancels your previously booked international flight out of Australia?

15 Mar 2017

Total posts 13

My experience with chargebacks was that the airlines have exercised a force majeure situation citing Government intervention. This was enacted with VISA/Mastercard not sure but presume with AMEX and others as well. The bank informed me that they could not even start the chargeback process because VISA in my case prevented it.

Luckily Etihad did finally refund me.

This whole experience has proved to me how little power the retail consumer has. Insurance and "protection" from credit cards is has been worthless really.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 May 2013

Total posts 25

Pathetic of Slater and Gordon to try take advantage of the situation.

30 Apr 2020

Total posts 13

When travellers purchase tickets, the cheaper they are the more likely it will be a credit not a refund. Each level of ticket have different rules pertaining to refunds.

15 Mar 2017

Total posts 13

Most airlines terms of carriage say that they will offer alternative flights or if that is not suitable a refund or flight credit if they cancel.. this is irrespective of the level of ticket.

I argued this successfully with a couple of airlines recently. Asiana i found the easiest.

The Australian airlines I found have been particularly good at taking the P**S on this.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 247

Legally the airlines are screwed, they have banked on a restoration of flights by a specific date, with absolutely no clear authority from Govt that flights can resume by that date, that is presumption on their part and they have accepted payment and offered product on that presumption, rather than a Govt directive. They had some grounds for offering a credit voucher initially on cancelled flights as it was in direct response to Govt legislation, but promoting the new flights and taking payments for these flights is a fail on their behalf, they should just refund without question.

GBRGB: Please see my comment and question below. Thank you.

09 Dec 2016

Total posts 14

While it might not be their preferred option I've had no issue receiving refunds from Qantas and others on request - just asking may be a better first step before taking the step of joining a class action

Virgin Australia notified us that the money we paid for our booking to Australia from Los Angeles for June 8th has been put into a "Travel Bank." Is there any recourse at all for us to get a refund? They cancelled our trip and now they're in "Administration." It doesn't bode well, but I would like to give it a try. Any suggestions?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 123

I have so far managed to received a refund from Qantas, Cathay and JAL.

Only Jetstar is proving a problem, who flatline refuse

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2014

Total posts 21

I have just gone online to Qantas try to cancel a J class trip to London in September, happy to pay the $300 cancellation fee as per my fare rules however outright cancelling is not an option online......only a voucher.


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