According to Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, the airline’s board made its decision to ground the fleet on the morning of Saturday, 29 October and put it into effect at 5 pm eastern summer time that day.

But between that decision and its execution, together with the summary termination of the travel plans of tens of thousands of customers, Qantas continued to sell tickets, probably in their thousands.

The situation already admitted by Joyce is that the airline wilfully took money from customers from goods and services it knew it could not provide because it had already decided to cancel those flights.

This is a serious offence under Australian law carrying a penalty of up to $1.1 million per transaction.

For an airline already familiar with the consequences of conspiring with other airlines to rob its customers by participating in an air freight cartel, Qantas can’t plead ignorance of the law.

What appears to be premeditated and widespread abuse of its unsuspecting passengers is under investigation by the ACCC.

The credit for bringing this situation to public attention goes to Elizabeth Knight in this morning’s Fairfax press.

It should also be kept in mind that criminal conduct can raise the question of the fitness of the persons involved to be involved in the management of an airline in the assessment of CASA.

The use of unsuspecting customers as a blunt instrument to score an industrial relations advantage is already an act that will keep Qantas paying and paying for may months as it is forced to meet its  obligations to fully compensate its victims.