The ACCC today announced a settlement with Qantas for the ‘ghost flights’ debacle. It is a negotiated result of court action launched by the regulator in 2023, seeking hundreds of millions in compensation and damages. So what’s the scam?

The scam is that, once again, Qantas and its management are off the hook, and Qantas customers end up paying the bill. The ACCC has backed down in return for $20M in compensation and a $100M fine, which Qantas will claim as a cost and, in effect, pass on for future customers to pay. The settlement is subject to court approval.

In short, Qantas deliberately deceived 86,597 customers into booking and paying for flights already cancelled and, in many cases, did not immediately notify customers of the cancellations. It was fraud on a grand scale, yet the corporate regulator prefers to let it fly (sorry) without the individuals who committed it being held responsible

The compensation of $225 for domestic and $450 for international passengers affected will be fine for some and woefully inadequate for others whose plans were thwarted by the airline’s callous behaviour. The total compensation bill is less than ex-CEO Alan Joyce’s annual ‘compensation’ before his departure last year.

Joyce’s successor, Vanessa Hudson, who was the CFO at the time of the fraudulent activity and must have known what was happening, gets the credit for “engaging with the regulator.” The ACCC pats itself on the back, with ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb stating that the settlement will “send a strong deterrence message to other companies… [and] ensure that companies operating in Australia communicate clearly, accurately and honestly with their customers…”

Meanwhile, Qantas shareholders, board and senior management can breathe a sigh of relief. The share price barely budged on the announcement, down 4 cents (0.68%) today.

Qantas shows how much it cares about its customers, sorry, shareholders

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