Travel Agents

Flight Centre accused of underpaying staff, ‘ripping off’ customers and ‘cult-like’ work culture

Flight Centre is under fire after an ABC investigation has raised questions about the way agents are paid and its ‘cult-like’ work culture.

Through talking to dozens of existing and former staff members, ABC Investigations has found that Flight Centre agents are encouraged to mark up some flights from anywhere between $30 to hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

“Say the flight was $1500 — they would mark-up and say ‘oh the flight is $1800’. Or if it’s a huge business class flight they would mark up a couple of thousand,” Olivia Little, an ex-Flight Centre employee told the ABC

The retail travel giant is also being accused of motivating their staff to add these markups with “low and confusing” methods of paying their staff.

The ABC’s report put agents’ base wage at $33,500, which is almost $4000 lower than the minimum wage.

However, it is also mentioned that if staff fail to make enough commission over a month, Flight Centre will top up their pay to bring them in line with minnimum wage.

A Flight Centre spokesman told Travel Weekly that the agency strongly denied the allegations the ABC put to them.

“It’s disappointing that these allegations have been aired publicly but it has also highlighted the need to move to a simpler and easier to understand pay model, which is what we are doing currently via an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement,” the spokesperson said

“The EBA is reliant on us ensuring that our people are better off overall and we have already made this commitment to them.”

Flight Centre has also denied “excessive marking-up”, stating that a central team in Australia proactively monitors margins on individual transactions and action is taken if the margin earned is considered excessive.

“As outlined in our philosophies, we strongly believe in a fair margin and we monitor this proactively,” the spokesperson said .

The report also slammed Flight Centre’s “boozy ‘buzz nights'”, calling them a “pay-off for the long hours and low pay”.

Little told the ABC that employees are required to attend monthly events in pubs or restaurants to celebrate those who have hit sales targets.

She said it was also a chance for new starters to be introduced to the group.

“In my area, when you were introduced, you either had to tell a joke, tell a funny story — which usually had to be quite dirty — or you had to flash. Not men, women,” she said.

“You’d have men in the back row howling like fools.”

Flight Centre told the ABC it was not aware of these allegations and have not received any complaints of this nature.

“This would be completely unacceptable and immediate action would be taken.”

The investigation also took aim at Flight Centre’s annual Global Gathering, labelling it as a ‘carrot’ for staff throughout the year.

“We believe we have a very strong and positive culture, which is generally celebrated and has in fact led to us winning a number of awards,” the Flight Centre spokesperson told Travel Weekly.

“Many of these awards are based on our people’s feedback.”


Do you have something to say about this? Get in touch with Travel Weekly Editor Ali Coulton at alexandra@travelweekly.com.au

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

  • XFLIGHTY03

    This has been going on for 20+ years! You had to mark up high because the pressure to hit your cost of seat and monthly target was so high you’d lose your job if your performance was below standard. I’d see consultants at buzz nights drowning their sorrows when failing to achieve and felt like they were in the outta. It was a viscous circle..because the pressure the following month was then much higher.

    I got out because the flirty culture and ‘single social circle’ nearly cost me my marriage.

    But let’s be real here..most sales roles have similar expectations..higher commissions..more bonuses….more accolades.

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