Christmas ticket price warning as travellers urged to read the airlines’ fine print
Travellers heading home for Christmas are being warned to be alert to possible plane ticket price rip-offs and report them to consumer authorities, as airlines scramble to add extra flights to cope with demand.
Consumer Protection in WA issued the warning after former AFL player Dale Thomas reported a direct Melbourne to Perth ticket he booked with Qantas several weeks ago, worth around $300, was rerouted via Sydney at the last minute.
Mr Thomas said if he wanted to get on his original direct flight, the ticket price had increased to roughly $1,500.
“I got a bit of a surprise … when I went to check my boarding ticket [the night before the flight] to make sure I was still on time,” he told ABC Perth.
“Instead of going from Melbourne to Perth, which I had purchased 25 days before, I was rerouted through Sydney and then on to Perth.
“I think essentially they [Qantas] have oversold the tickets and rerouted anyone who has purchased a cheaper ticket.”
The former Collingwood and Carlton player was accompanying his young daughter Matilda on a flight to Perth and planned to return to Melbourne shortly after.
He said the rerouting would have meant he missed his return flight to Melbourne.
After complaining on Twitter, Mr Thomas was able to board his original flight at no extra cost.
Qantas caught out by WA border opening
Qantas has blamed what it called the McGowan Government’s “surprise” opening of the WA border to people from Victoria and New South Wales this week for what happened to Mr Thomas.
“Due to the surprise opening of the Western Australian border to New South Wales and Victoria, we were caught a little short to be able to add extra flights quickly to meet the pent-up demand,” a Qantas spokesman said in a statement.
“In this case, Dale was moved to another flight because of the rush to purchase seats.
“He was still able to travel to Melbourne via Sydney.”
The airline said it had added 65 additional weekly services to and from Perth from next week, with fares starting from $390 one-way.
“Customers whose flights had been cancelled as a result of the border closures had the value of their ticket put into credit to be used at a later date,” the spokesman said.
“It’s always a good idea for customers to check what options they have as part of their ticket to change travel dates.”
WA Premier’s plea to airlines
WA Premier Mark McGowan urged airlines to make sure people could get home for Christmas at “affordable” prices.
“People have waited a long time to come and visit family,” he said.
“I think the first week, the flights are expensive, I think the prices are coming down in coming weeks, which is a good thing, because you don’t want people who are being separated from family, being ripped off.
“So I just urge the airlines to understand they have an obligation to the Australian public, the West Australian public, to do the right thing.”
Warning to check travel conditions
Consumer Protection WA advised travellers to carefully consider the terms and conditions of their travel this Christmas.
It said when the cancellation of travel services was due to government restrictions, consumers may not automatically be entitled to a refund.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping said cheaper options for travel bookings may not be the best choice.
“As a general rule, bookings that offer more flexibility regarding cancellations or postponements may cost more than bookings that don’t, so it is up to the consumer to determine how much they are willing to pay to have that flexibility and peace of mind or how much risk they are willing to accept,” she said.
“If you’re planning on booking travel, read the terms and conditions to see what the business is offering if pandemic restrictions come into place, but don’t base your decision on cost alone.
“If you are impacted by sudden border restrictions, contact your travel provider as soon as possible in the first instance to discuss your options.
“If you cancel your travel booking before the provider cancels the service, this could be taken as a change of mind, in which case the business would not be obliged to refund your money.”
But she said most customers were getting to use the credits they were entitled to.
“Most of the time, it’s a good news story at the moment, people are using those credits that they got during the cancellation period,” she said.
“They’re being able to take advantage of that to be able to book flights to come to Western Australia or to go over east.
“We have had a couple of complaints where people are alleging that they have had their flight cancelled and then been rebooked at a higher rate.
“And we will work with the [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission] if there is bona fide evidence of any of that kind of market conduct going on.”
Ms Chopping urged disgruntled passengers to contact Consumer Protection.
“WA consumers who are not happy with the remedy being offered for cancellations by airlines or other travel providers, should lodge a complaint with us so we can take a close look at the cancellation policies linked to your booking,” she said.
“Or if you believe the cancellation of a cheap flight was an attempt by the airline to get you to book one with a more expensive fare, then we’d like to hear from you as well.”
Border changes see FIFO workers change travel plans
Founder of WA’s Short Term Accommodation Association Delma Davies said the changed border restrictions had seen bookings for some of the Perth properties she managed cancelled.
“We lost a lot of bookings when the borders opened because our trapped FIFO workers could leave which is great for them,” she said.
“That uncertainty has created a lot of inquiries, people aren’t sure to book because they don’t know what’s happening [with the WA border].”