Qantas criticized for ‘unfair’ Covid credit scheme despite 12-month extension

Qantas and Jetstar have come under fire for an “unfair” Covid credit scheme, despite extending the deadline for customers to use credits by 12 months.

The airlines announced on Thursday they would be giving customers an additional 12 months to use their Covid credits, carried over from extensive border cancellations and closures that have occurred during the pandemic.

The credits have been extended three times since 2020, with the current extension designed to ensure customers can use their remaining credits for domestic or international travel by December 31, 2023.

Related: Qantas has produced a record profit for investors. But can it win back the respect of everyday travelers?

Customers have until December 2024 to complete their journey, with a recent analysis showing there are $800m in Covid credits still held by Qantas and Jetstar customers.

A total of 76% of credits are worth less than $500, while 24% are worth between $500 and $5,000. Less than 1% is worth more than $5,000.

Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer Markus Svensson said both airlines were trying to make it easier for customers to access credits.

“We have had literally millions of bookings that have been canceled during several waves of lockdowns and border closures.

“No airline had systems designed to handle this seamlessly and we realize the result has been frustrating for some customers.

“Our main goal is that everyone with a Covid credit can put it to good use, which is why we are extending the travel expiry date by 12 months.”

But the rollout of the credits came under criticism, with consumer advocacy group Choice saying the credits system was “still unfair”.

He said the system only allowed customers to use the credits for flights of equivalent or higher value, but not for anything cheaper.

Patrick Veyret, head of policy and government relations at Choice, said he had given Qantas a 2022 Shonky award for the system, which has “let customers down time and time again”.

“The intense public outrage in response has clearly had some impact on the airline, but there is much more that needs to be done to make all credits viable for all consumers.

“Some Qantas flight credits can only be used towards a booking of equivalent or greater value, so if you have a $300 flight credit, you cannot use it to book a $290 flight. This is clearly unfair.

“Qantas customers also frequently complain that when they go to rebook a flight at the same time on the same route, they have to pay significantly more when using a credit than they paid for the original flight.”

In April 2022, Choice filed a complaint with the ACCC about restrictions on Qantas’ credit repayment rules.

Qantas has been one of the most complained companies on the NSW Fair Trading complaint register over the past six months.

Veyret said the loans should be streamlined in their execution and allow customers more flexibility.

“Flight credits should work like gift cards,” he said. “People should have the ability to transfer credits to other people, as well as split credits into multiple transactions.”

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