Qantas customers left stranded when the fleet was grounded two years ago have only one day left to get on a flight if they want to use the vouchers the airline gave them in compensation.
David Batch was one of about 100,000 customers who received a free return Qantas ticket to anywhere in Australia or New Zealand when his flight from Sydney to Canberra was cancelled in October 2011.
But when Batch tried to use his voucher on Thursday to book a trip to his friend's wedding in Perth early next year, he was told that he needed to fly by Friday, or else lose the gift.
"As a PR exercise it's a bit of a fail," he said. "If it's meant to be a mea culpa, why would you put an expiry date on it?"
The Qantas fleet was grounded as a result of union action. Because his flight was cancelled, Batch had to drive to Canberra for a business meeting he could not afford to miss.
He was pleasantly surprised when he was offered the free flight but he now feels betrayed by the airline.
"I guess they were being generous," he said. "But they should've emailed me a few months ago.
"I get spam every day from [Qantas] trying to get me to spend money ... but nothing about a gift that you haven't used yet."
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce made the unprecedented move of grounding the airline for three days in 2011, in response to union action from groups representing Qantas pilots, aircraft engineers and baggage handlers, who were concerned about moves to cut costs and set up an airline offshore.
A Qantas spokesman said the airline provided customers with all the information about the two-year expiry date when the voucher was issued.
When attempting to book his trip on Thursday, Batch was told by Qantas booking staff that a lot of people had been calling up and "under no circumstances" would the expiry date be extended.
"Customers had two years to redeem the flights," the spokesman said. "This was on top of refunds, accommodation and other expenses Qantas provided tens of thousands of customers affected in the dispute."
Batch said he was clearly not going to use the voucher now. "I'm really annoyed because I've kept this aside for a particular reason," Batch said. "I didn't read the fine print."
Qantas declined to reveal the number of customers that had not yet redeemed their voucher, but said that the "vast majority" of customers had already taken their free trip.
Customers who have not used their voucher will also lose the promised frequent flyer points that were also offered.
- FFX Aus