As a result of the Easter and Anzac Day vacations, the number of persons traveling domestically in April increased to 89 percent of pre-COVID levels.
According to data provided by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on Wednesday, 4.5 million individuals traveled to Australia in April, the largest number since the pandemic began and nearly doubled since the Omicron epidemic destroyed recovery efforts in February.
Despite the fact that data were only 1% lower than in 2019, the busy April period wreaked havoc on Australia’s airports and airlines, as the industry battled to react to the flood of customers amid labor shortages.
“Airlines and airports enjoyed strong demand at Easter, but the combination of high passenger numbers and staff shortages created operational challenges for them,” said ACCC commissioner Anna Brakey.
It comes after reports that domestic flight delays in April were at an all-time high, with nearly 40% of arrivals and departures arriving late.
Airlines increased aircraft capacity over the summer, only to be greeted with lower demand than projected as the Omicron surge spread across the eastern states, according to the ACCC investigation.
“A lot of capacity deployed over December 2021 and January 2022 went unused as expectations of a busy summer period went unfulfilled,” the report states.
“The airlines reduced capacities in February in response, although the fall in capacity may also have reflected shortages in staff levels due to illness and isolation requirements.”
The ACCC also stated in the report that it finished its investigation into Qantas’ alleged anti-competitive and “predatory” behavior in late March, after Rex filed a formal complaint, validating a claim made by Qantas before.
Meanwhile, following an avalanche of complaints from Qantas customers, the consumer watchdog said that it is continuing to investigate the airline’s flight credit program.
The ACCC asked the public for evidence that Qantas is hiking rates on tickets booked with flight credits earned during COVID, according to Australian Aviation in March.
It came after separate “price gouging” investigations revealed that some consumers purchasing with Qantas travel credits paid more than double the price for economy seats than those paying with cash or card.
Qantas denies the charge, claiming that any cost differences are due to new rules requiring flight credit holders to purchase tickets in the same tariff class or higher. Customers of Virgin and Rex, on the other hand, are not affected by comparable policies.
The consumer watchdog has now begun a public consultation for Qantas customers wishing to cash in flying credits earned during the pandemic, according to Australian Aviation.
“We’re interested in particular if available fare prices for flights are higher when you try to book using your flight credit than when you try to book using other means of payment (like as cash or credit card) on Qantas’ website,” the ACCC stated.
The ACCC urged impacted customers to provide data and evidence (such as screenshots) that they were offered higher airfares when booking new trips with airline credit rather than cash or card in the five-minute survey.