Alan Joyce says biggest problem with COVID credits is those held with agents

Alan Joyce says biggest problem with COVID credits is those held with agents

Qantas Group’s outgoing CEO Alan Joyce faced the music yesterday when a senate inquiry grilled himself, Jetstar CEO Stephanie Tully and the group executive, corporate affairs Andrew McGuiness for an hour and a half.

The rigorous inquiry by a select senate committee saw Joyce on the back foot against allegations of corporate greed, interfering with government affairs and poor conduct during the pandemic.

One of the main issues touched on at the inquiry was the group’s conduct regarding its COVID credits scheme. Joyce confirmed that the public $370m figure in outstanding credits only accounts for Qantas bookings, not Jetstar or overseas bookings. When pressed on the complete figure by Labor Senator and former boss of the Transport Workers Union, Tony Sheldon, Tully said that Jetstar’s unused credits were around $100m, of which over half of this figure came from bookings less than $100.

Later elaborating on the issue of COVID credits, Joyce said that credits held though travel agents was one of the biggest issues regarding getting people to use their credits. He said that the airline has agreed with agents to contact customers directly as well as take out full page ads encouraging people to use their credits.

Linda Forster, the owner of TravLin Travel, and Rose Febo, a personal TravelManager, both told Travel Weekly that neither of them had heard of the airline contacting clients. However, Forster said that she noticed a credit advice email reminder pop up after the class action was announced against Qantas.

Leading the suit is Echo Law, which alleges that Qantas customers were entitled to full cash refunds rather than flight credits. The law firm said that these credits were worth significantly less to customers than the refunds they were owed.

Regarding direct communication with agents, Forster did not speak highly of how the national carrier conducted itself.

“Communication on Group Credit policy throughout the year was near to non-existent,” she said.

“It was a matter of agency initiative to contact Qantas to find out where the credits lie as the information was not forthcoming.”

Febo echoed these points, acknowledging there had been improvement lately but during the pandemic it was quite difficult.

“As agents, we had to keep ourselves up-to-date on the Qantas agency website and it was rather complicated. One needed a law degree to interrupt some of the conditions.” She went on to say that the uncertainness of COVID meant that no one could know whether to roll out credits or refunds.

“It was more difficult as bulk reversing of bookings and creating credits or refunds was not what our systems were designed for so this was a learning experience for all of us in the industry.”

The constantly changing rules and regulations around Qantas’ COVID credits left more than just a bitter taste in some industry members mouth.

Tina Killeen, the general manager of Spencer Travel, said that Qantas made the process of using credits “very difficult.”

“For our corporate clients, if they had a Qantas direct deal they had the option to move the credits onto a virtual card for a lump sum, however Qantas did keep a per cent of the amount to be refunded,” Killeen said, adding that this was prior to the recent refund policy the airline released.

“If the client is using the credit to purchase a new ticket, we have to call Qantas to check which waiver code is required on the ticket. They changed so often it was difficult to know which one to use and if we were to get it incorrect the agency received an agency debt memo from Qantas.”

Forster added to this sentiment, describing Qantas’ conduct as “absolutely appalling” and said that refunds should have been forthcoming during COVID.

At the very least, the national carrier should have been forthcoming when Australia dipped into cost of living concerns,” she said.

“They have clearly failed to read the room!

“A convoluted COVID Credit policy, retrenchment of staff, cutting ties with industry partners, blaming others including consumers and never taking responsibility and the most recent blocking of healthy competition in international aviation. Instead announcing billion-dollar profits rounding out the outgoing CEO’s tender.

“Joyce does not care – read the room Qantas! It’s disgusting and should be raised to the highest level of the ACCC for investigation.”

Just this morning, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told ABC’s WA Mornings radio program that travellers should be able to receive a refund for their booked flights.

“They need to look after their customers, and there’s no question that needs to occur,” Albanese said.

“When people have made bookings in good faith, then they need to either have that money returned or they need to be able to use those bookings in order to make future flights.”

Click here for a full recap of Joyce’s inquiry.

Featured Image: Alan Joyce at his senate inquiry (9News)

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