Qantas and Virgin change tune on aviation ombudsman ahead of white paper release

The vertical stabilisers of a Qantas Boeing B737-838 plane, registration VH-VZQ, and a Virgin Australia Boeing B737-8FE plane, registration VH-VUZ, waiting at the northern end of the main runway of Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport in preparation for departure.  The Qantas plane is heading to Adelaide as flight QF741 and the Virgin plane is heading to Adelaide as flight VA428.  In the background is another Virgin B737-8FE plane. This image was taken from Nigel Love Bridge, Mascot on a sunny afternoon on 3 December 2023.
Edited by Travel Weekly

    Qantas and Virgin have backflipped on their stance and given conditional approval to an ombudsman that would look over passenger complaints.

    The news comes ahead of the soon to be released aviation white-paper, criticism of the major carriers’ delay and cancellation rates and a $120m fine for Qantas.

    Qantas cops $100m penalty with passengers to get $20m back over cancelled flights

    Slated for ‘mid-year’ the aviation white paper will set the long-term policies to guide the next generation of growth and innovation in the sector.

    “Any aviation industry ombudsman needs to be carefully considered to ensure it resulted in timely resolution of consumer complaints and should cover the entire ecosystem including airports, travel agents and other service providers,” a Qantas spokesperson said this morning.

    “[It’s] the best thing we can do for our customers is to ensure more of our flights take off on time.”

    The latest comments from Qantas are in stark contrast of its submission to the white paper in which it said ombudsman models are, “notoriously ineffective at delivering timely resolution of consumer complaints”.

    Virgin Australia has also shifted stance with a spokesperson welcoming opportunities to improve the effectiveness of the external complaint-handling process for airline customers.

    “We will work constructively with government if it is thought that improvements beyond those we have already supported are necessary,” they said. “We want our guests to have a positive experience when they fly with us, even when things don’t go to plan.”

    As consumer advocates, like Choice and the ACCC, have pushed for the ombudsman, the airlines declared Australian consumer law already provided passengers with protection and warned of similar policies around the world not addressing issues of flight delays or cancellations.

    Qantas is well placed to pick up the scraps of the Bonza mess, particularly through Jetstar while Virgin Australia has added more flights to Port Villa after the collapse of Air Vanuatu. 

    Jetstar and Qantas perception ratings soar following Bonza’s implosion

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