Qantas and Virgin Australia will both stop offering additional flexibility to customers with domestic flight bookings at the end of this week, winding back the “Fly Flexible” and “Flexible Flying” policies that the respective airlines introduced at the beginning of the pandemic.
Currently, both Qantas and Virgin Australia are allowing fee-free flight changes for any reason. You can change your travel dates without paying a change fee, with only any fare difference applicable. You can also choose to cancel without penalty for a Qantas flight credit or Virgin Australia travel bank, which can be redeemed for a new flight. (Since October 2021, however, Qantas credits are a lot more restrictive than Virgin’s.)
You can also currently change or cancel any Qantas or Velocity Frequent Flyer reward booking for no cost.
Both Qantas and Virgin have continuously extended these policies throughout the pandemic, a few months at a time. But for domestic revenue bookings, the increased flexibility will finally expire next Saturday, 30 April 2022. You’ll only be able to take advantage of it on domestic bookings for travel dates until then.
Velocity Frequent Flyer is also ending additional flexibility on reward seat bookings on 30 April, but Qantas has extended the increased flexibility for domestic Classic Flight Rewards until 30 June 2022.
Qantas and Virgin will continue to offer increased flexibility on international bookings for a bit longer. For international flights, you can still enjoy increased flexibility on bookings made until 30 June 2022, for travel dates up to 31 December 2022.
Qantas & Virgin continue to offer some flexibility if you get COVID-19
Although its Fly Flexible policy is ending, Qantas will still allow customers with Australian domestic bookings to change their travel dates without paying a change fee if they get COVID-19 or are required to isolate as a close contact in the week before their flight. The Qantas website says:
From 1 May 2022, Fly Flexible date changes are no longer available for Qantas flights operated within Australia. However we understand there may be some circumstances where you may not be able to travel with us as planned, and offer flexible flight options for those impacted by COVID-19.
As part of our ‘Fly Well’ customer program, you or other passengers in the same booking may change your travel date without incurring a change fee, if in the week leading up to your flight, you are required to isolate in accordance with the rules of the jurisdiction you are in and/or travelling to due to testing positive for COVID-19 or being designated as a close contact.
You’ll need to contact Qantas or your Travel Agent to change your booking. A fare difference may apply.
This is good, although it’s unfortunate that this will require customers to contact Qantas (if they booked directly with the airline), as Qantas is taking a notoriously long time to answer most phone calls at the moment. It would be helpful if Qantas gave customers the option to self-service online or through the App.
Virgin Australia has now updated its website and is now promising a similar assurance:
From 1 May 2022, Virgin Australia will continue to provide guests who are impacted by COVID-19 flexibility to change the date of their booking without a change fee or place their fare into credit with the cancel fee waived. A fare difference may apply at the time of rebooking.
Guests will be able to take advantage of this policy if they are required to isolate in accordance with the rules of the jurisdiction the guest is in or is travelling to due to testing positive to COVID-19 or being designated as a close contact in the week leading up to their travel date.
To action the change, the guests should call the Guest Contact Centre or Travel Agent prior to the travel date to request a change. A fare difference may apply.
All good things must come to an end
It’s not unexpected that airlines now wish to wind back the generous flexibility they have offered customers during the pandemic. Over recent years, offering additional flexibility to customers has been necessary to give people the confidence to book travel. But waiving change & cancellation fees has also removed a source of revenue for airlines and disincentivised the purchase of the more flexible airfares which earn higher yields for airlines.
Giving customers the freedom to change and cancel their flights an unlimited number of times also makes it more difficult for airlines to accurately forecast demand and schedule flights accordingly.
At the same time, it is surely in the airlines’ best interests that customers who have COVID-19 do not fly on their planes! By charging customers change or cancellation fees if they can’t travel due to COVID-19, this creates a perverse incentive for passengers not to change their plans and potentially infect other passengers and the airline’s own crew members. (Hopefully passengers will be more responsible than this…)
If you have travel insurance, that may still cover any additional costs incurred if you need to amend your travel plans due to COVID-19.
Rex and Jetstar’s policies
Rex amended its COVID Refund Guarantee at the end of March 2022, effectively guaranteeing that customers will no longer be able to get a refund. But Rex customers can still request a travel credit if they can’t fly as booked due to COVID-19. This credit can be used to book a new flight for the same passenger/s on the same route.
Jetstar still gives customers the option to purchase a FareCredit for an additional fee at the time of booking.
You can leave a comment or discuss this topic on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum.