Alan Joyce opinion piece – Fare’s fair on criticism of Australia’s airlines

Sydney | Published on 8th December 2016 at 9:07

Over the past couple of days, we’ve heard some pretty sensational claims from the lobby group
Choice accusing airlines of breaching consumer law and treating customers unfairly.

Those are serious allegations – so it’s worth putting some facts back in the story.

As you’d expect, all of Qantas and Jetstar’s terms and conditions fully comply with Australian
consumer law.

They also reflect the realities of running an airline.

Take our policy on refunds. We know that life can get in the way of the best-laid travel plans, so we
do offer refunds in some circumstances. But common sense tells you that giving everyone the
option to move between flights at will, for free, makes it hard to run an efficient airline.

Few people wake up and suddenly decide to fly somewhere. The average lead times for buying a
ticket range from three weeks through to six months. So, the prospect of us reselling a seat even a
month in advance is harder than you might think. That’s why it costs to change bookings that aren’t
fully flexible and why airlines can’t offer a refund to anyone who wants one.

The rules that apply to every fare we sell are clearly shown when you book and our full terms and
conditions can be read at any time. These rules are ultimately about serving our customers
efficiently and giving them options about how much flexibility they need. Now, we realise these
rules may not suit everyone all of the time, but they suit most of the 50 million people who travel
with us each year. And they help keep the cost of travel down.

Speaking of which, it’s a bit galling that Choice doesn’t look at the broader picture when it comes to
the value offered by airlines. Air fares have dropped by around 40 per cent since 2003 –
compare that to your household bills. And yet the product keeps getting better. We’re constantly
improving our aircraft, the inflight entertainment, the food, our network of destinations. From next
year, we’ll be offering free wi-fi.

And let’s talk about reliability. In any given month, about 90 per cent of our flights are on time. In
the US and the UK, the industry norm is as low as 70 per cent.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re far from perfect. And things do go wrong, both inside and outside our
control. But if you knew the amount of work that happens behind the scenes to get people to their
destination safely when there are delays or cancellations, the last thing you would say is that we
don’t care.

In 2016, Australian travelers are getting a higher level of value, quality and reliability than ever
before. Choice is doing them a disservice by twisting the facts to manufacture a crisis that doesn’t