Australian airline Regional Express (Rex) is escalating its war of words with bigger rival airline, Qantas. Rex paid for full-page advertisements in Australian newspapers on Wednesday, detailing scores of Qantas ticket refund-related complaints.
Rex ramps up its sledging match with Qantas
Rex also publishes a 73-page document on its own website listing Qantas-related complaints the smaller airline has collected from social media postings. This tactic is the latest move by Rex in an ongoing verbal sledging match between the two airlines. The competitive tension has its origins in the respective airlines moving into each other’s markets.
Rex started Boeing 737 services this year and busted onto a Qantas Group / Virgin Australia duopoly on six busy interstate domestic routes. Rex has also moved onto several regional routes Qantas (via its subsidiary QantasLink) enjoyed market dominance on. In return, Qantas has aggressively moved onto multiple regional routes Rex previously had to themselves.
While the far bigger Qantas says it welcomes competition, Rex has been less sanguine about the new competition. Rex has accused Qantas of capacity dumping and punishing Rex. The airline has taken its complaints to the media and more formal channels, including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Rex calls out Qantas’ refund tactics
Wednesday’s marketing stunt is designed to highlight the differences between each airline’s refund policy for COVID-related flight cancelations. Rex offers what it calls a COVID Refund Guarantee. Rex offers a full cash refund to any passenger whose flight has been disrupted by a direct COVID-related reason. The Qantas refund process is far more cumbersome. With Melbourne in lockdown and most flights to Australia’s second-biggest city canceled, Rex figures it is an opportune time to highlight their refund policy.
In a statement issued by Rex on Wednesday, the airline accused Qantas of damaging the broader aviation industry. The statement said;
“Qantas, in particular, engages in underhanded tactics to avoid a refund at all costs. Qantas passengers have highlighted that this includes burying the refund application form deep in an obscure corner of the website, making passengers wait for hours on the phone, registering requests and not following up, and pressuring passengers to accept a credit instead of a cash refund.
“Rex had refunded every passenger that requested for a refund of a ticket eligible by law. In
addition, Rex has written monthly travel advisories to travel agents eight times to ask them to
request refunds on behalf of the passengers who booked through them.”
Rex sets a high refund bar for itself
Qantas is not the only airline in the world accused of dragging its heels when it comes to refunds for COVID-related flight cancelations. If Australia’s flag carrier did some digging of its own, it could find complaints about refund snafus at Rex.
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Qantas says it won’t engage in a public slanging match with Rex over its refund claims. Qantas says it offers it disrupted passengers a choice of refunds, vouchers, or flight changes. The airline says 2.5 million passengers have already taken advantage of these offers.
However, accessing a refund for most Qantas ticket types is not easy. It involves a long wait on the phone and even a longer wait for the payment to be processed. While Qantas’ refund claims are technically true, the big Australian airline makes the refund process difficult.
If Rex’s noise makes Qantas streamline its refund processes, that’s a pretty good outcome for the traveling public. In the meantime, Rex is setting a very high bar for itself – something Qantas might be quietly waiting to exploit as they plot payback for this latest competitive outburst.