Economy

Coalition pushes bill that could make airlines pay for delays

The government is considering stronger consumer protections and improvements to complaint-handling processes and accessibility as part of the aviation white paper, which is due to be released this year.

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Last year, Transport Minister Catherine King said it would consider measures in place overseas as part of this process, and accused Australia’s local airlines of failing consumers.

“I do say really clearly: airlines need to do better when it comes to Australian consumers. I have been highly critical of Qantas for some time in relation to a range of issues. They need to do better.”

Most flight cancellations have a simple cause: weather. But there are also times when airlines, airports and Airservices Australia – the government body responsible for air safety – are at fault. Since COVID-19, passengers have experienced longer waits to be rebooked on replacement flights because fewer services are operating than before the pandemic.

The bill follows a report by former competition watchdog chair Allan Fels on Thursday that found Qantas had taken advantage of its 60 per cent market share and was “price gouging”, which could have affected the wider economy.

“Qantas’ ability to reduce supply while increasing prices and suffering no material loss of market share may have affected CPI in December 2022, and therefore may have impacted the Reserve Bank’s inflation expectations and rate increases,” wrote Professor Fels.

“A quarter of the inflation that month was mainly due to Qantas aggressively raising airfares, although Virgin may have also contributed.”

Qantas rejected the allegations and said airfares have dropped significantly over the past two years.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said holiday travel and accommodation did make up one quarter of the overall CPI movement of 1.9 per cent in December 2022 but this data sample was based on all aspects of holiday travel including accommodation and other transport expenses, not just airfares charged by Qantas.

“In the December quarter, 70 per cent of the contribution of holiday travel and accommodation came from domestic holiday travel and the remaining 30 per cent from international holiday travel,” an ABS spokesman said.

“The ABS sample includes airfares of all the major domestic and international carriers operating in Australia.”

Fels called for a separate review and removal of anticompetitive restrictions on slots at airports, and also hit out at airline loyalty schemes as being not transparent enough.

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  • Source of information and images “brisbanetimes”

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