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Some days the stars just don’t align for you and what could potentially be a great day turns into a cluster fuck of a day. We all have those days, moments and experiences. Well that’s what recently happened with me on a voyage from Melbourne to Manila when travelling with Qantas. If you follow along on the tweets (now on Snapchat @honeybirdtravel) you would have been kept up to date as the Qantas social media team tried to tell me how everything that happened to me was a ‘safety issue‘ and ‘we’re sorry that you had a less than positive experience‘ with us.

In the hope that no woman (or let’s be honest here – person) ever has to go through what I did the following story is a true tale. Despite what you may be thinking after you read the below email to Qantas Customer Service team and a few select executives this actually happened to me.

I’ve removed the names of people involved and given them rather accurate descriptive names.

Note– Qantas have recently reached out to respond to me and in an attempt to resolve this issue and respond accordingly. Which in itself has been a fascinating experience. The general feel of these conversations has firstly been;

  • We’re not going to treat you like an idiot and apologise. What happened was unacceptable on every level.
  • We hope that next time you fly with us it is a better experience.

As of 29 June there are on going discussions on how this can be turned from a shit storm of an experience to a positive customer service relations issue. Think community crisis management.

To date a lump sum of 20 000 frequent flyer points have been added to my account.  Which may initially seem generous if you don’t consider the fact that to redeem these points (ie on a new flight) I’ll have to pay Qantas for the service.So I’ll be double paying for the uniquely terrible experience.

If anything further comes of this I’ll update and let you all know.

Dear Qantas Contacts,
 
 

Please allow me a short moment of your time (and your assistant’s who is most likely already read this before showing you) to relay to you my story- A Travellers tale and why I will never willingly fly Qantas again. This is a true story and relates to what can only now be described as a comedy of errors on my recent flights with Qantas – booking reference XXX,  FF number 1 00 00 00

 

As part of the TBEX and the Department of Tourism Promotion Philippines current campaign to increase the awareness of the outer regions of the Philippines and the upcoming TBEX event in October I was invited to join in a familirisation trip to the Philippines. As a member of one of three FAM teams, and the only Australian representative, I was given my choice of any airline to take me from dreary Melbourne to the warmth embrace of the Philippines. Naturally I chose Qantas. A choice that I now sincerely regret.

 
I am sure by now you are wondering what on earth went so wrong that I am taking the time to contact you directly. Please do grab a coffee, sit down and enjoy the tale;
 

On Sunday 05 June I happily packed my bags and made my way to Melbourne airport. With little to no stress I checked into my flights from 09:00 Mel-Syd and following 12:10pm flight from Sydney – Manila. As a regular international traveller there was little to nothing out of the ordinary happening in Melbourne airport. After clearing security, grabbing a much needed coffee and making my way to the designated gate I see the dreaded CANCELLED red wording on the gate screen. As the connection time between flights, which were those suggested by the Qantas website, was rather tight I nervously approached the last remaining friendly Qantas staff member I would speak to in the next 24 hours. Though at this point in time I was unaware that my day was about to go from nice to utter cluster fuck.

The last remaining friendly Qantas staff member advised that the small group of passengers with international connections in Sydney would be placed on the next available flight and that when we arrived in Sydney Qantas staff members would be able to assist us in passing through customs and indeed make our connecting flights. As such I was mildly relieved to have been graciously given a seat on the 10:00am flight. Though a niggling worry was working it’s way into my logistics mind. At best a 10:00am flight would have us landing in Sydney at approx 11:00am, allowing just over an hour to get from domestic to international, through customs and boarded.  A concern which my Qantas FF app felt was valid too- see attached image. Upon approaching Qantas staff at the service desk in domestic, I was advised that there was nothing to worry about. ALL flights in/out of Sydney were delayed and there wouldn’t be any issues what so ever for me. I would make this flight. No stress. Again I queried the exceptionally tight timing and asked if it was possible to be rerouted on a flight that departed Melbourne. I was advised that this wasn’t possible as I would definitely make my flight to Manila. Reassured by the Melbourne ground staff that ALL flights were delayed, despite there being no further evidence of this being true I toddled off to the new boarding gate and waited.

Along with my fellow Manila delayees I happily boarded the 10am flight and made our way to Sydney. This flight was rather uneventful with mild delays on route being caused by the terrible weather in Sydney. As we disembarked the plane and purposefully walked across to the International Transfer desk things started to get really interesting. All passengers on the 12:10pm Manila flight have been removed from the flight! The staff advising us one by one that we had been booked a hotel room, placed on the next day’s flight and given a measely $30 voucher to cover any meals at the hotel. Please collect your baggage, head down to the shuttle bus and come back tomorrow. Any further complaints, issues or expenses should be taken  up with your individual travel insurance company.

 

At no point did I honestly think to myself – wow can this experience get any worse. Well it did. As a single female traveller, in fitwear, I can say that the Qantas staff had less then 0% interest in helping me. Surely in this day and age a person’s gender should not come into play. Especially not with a company such as Qantas.
 

With great shame I must confess to dropping the most hurtful and embarrassing line in my career “I am a travel writer, traveling on invitation of the Philippine government. I need to make it to Manila for a 7am domestic flight”

As I stood to the side shocked at being brushed away by a Qantas staff member two lovely  gentlemen business class passengers arrived at the counter also requiring assistance to get to Manila. Now at this point the wonderful, amazing and helpful Qantas staff member emerged. As the lovely well dressed gentlemen asked if we, including myself, could be rerouted via Singapore to Manila. With incredible efficiency the staff member was on the phone and able to book these passengers to Singapore on Qantas ongoing to Manila with Philippines Airlines. Whilst politely discussing the numerous options for male business class passengers I was booked onto the same Qantas flight and then an ongoing Jetstar flight to Manila. Beggars can’t be choosers when flying economy. Though this change in flight situation has taken an 11hr trip to a 22hour trip seeing my flight now arrived at 5.55am

Now holding my newly confirmed flights I do as I’m told, going through to collect my very small bag to be checked in and collect the newest bunch of boarding passes. By now I’m sure you are thinking gosh what is this women’s issue? Our surly staff got her seats and helped on what can only be describe as a terribly busy day for all airport staff.

The little piece of paper in my hand had a very important suggestion written across the top – TICKET REVALIDATION/REISSUE IS RECOMMENDED. See attached.  Keep this in mind as it’ll come back into play.

 

Upon arrival at the check in desk the first query I get is -Who told you to come here? Things slightly improved as I was given my boarding pass from Syd-Singapore. In the hope of making my life easier at the end of my journey I requested that my bag be allowed as carry on. Now again as a regular international and domestic traveller I’m fairly well aware of the safety requirements and size restrictions for carry on baggage. Which is why I was traveling with a small suitcase. The check in staff member advised me that unfortunately I could not take my baggage as carry on as it had been checked through from Melbourne to Manila and that the system would not allow the bag to be removed. The bag which I currently held in front me. Once again I allowed myself to trust that Qantas would take care of me and my valuables, and waved off my bag with reassurances that we would once again be together in Manila.

At no point was I offered any delay vouchers in either Melbourne or Sydney.
 

On the bus and across to the international terminal I go. All the while getting receiving text messages from Qantas that my original flight QF19 has been rescheduled and delayed. See attached. Note the flight eventually left at 13:39. After clearing customs and taking a leisurely stroll to the departing gate of QF19 I was even able to wave hello as the plane was still at the gate.

An uneventful time was had during my transit and whilst waiting for QF05 to take me away to Singapore. Again the terribly disappointing service from Qantas escalated during this flight. Never before have I sat on a flight and felt like an  inferior human being. Like many passengers I do enjoy the on board entertainment system during flights. As I was enjoying the unique selection on offer, with my head phones in Qantas Air Host Member Of the Year walked along the cabin offering passengers a bottle of water.  As she passed me by twice with no water offered, I politely asked for a bottle. As she stood over me with a look of disgust on her face, with a tray full of water bottles in her arms, she informed me that she had given my water to my husband seated next to me. I was unaware that Qantas staff were still in the mindset that a young woman is not allowed to travel or indeed converse with the outside world without her husband. Now whilst I understand that such slip ups happen, a simple oh I’m sorry here’s your water would have had my giggling about this with my friends. However Qantas Air Host Member Of the Year decided to increase the level of awkwardness and certainly my discomfort by instancing that the young man, a total and complete stranger to me, go through his bag and return to me the bottle of water. All the while holding a tray full of water bottles.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the details on this miserable flight. The horrid inedible food (image attached), staff ramming into me during flight and the total and complete lack of care. It was with great relief when I disembarked in Singapore and made my way to the Jetstar transfer desk.

Now remember how earlier I mentioned that all important REVALIDATION/REISSUE message?
 

Well now this vital step comes into play. It’s approaching midnight and I’m eager to check in and go grab a snooze on the airport floor. Upon arrival at the transfer desk I rely the story of my woes and the hope to make this next step an easy one. I’m in desperate need of edible food. Only to be advised that Qantas has not paid for my Jetsar flight and that there is $660AU owing on my booking which needs to be resolved before I can be checked in on this flight. Thankfully for me the Jetstar staff went above and beyond in chasing down a Qantas manager who at midnight would reissue my ticket and allow me to be checked in. A stressful situation which took over 45mins to resolve. I’m sure you can understand how much love and care I’m feeling from Qantas right now.

Jetstar did a magnificent job of getting me to Manila on time where a staff member from the Department of Tourism was waiting for me. As I grab my bag, head through customs and taken  to the domestic terminal I finally get a moment to freshen up and change my clothing. Only to discover that my bag at some point during this epic journey has been soaked. All of my worldly possessions were wet. With water dripping from my toiletry bag to wringing out my shorts. With a full day starting out with a domestic flight and followed by adventure activities my options were limited – dirty plane clothes or wet underwear. As I dislike wearing wet underwear I opted for dirty plane clothes.

During this saga the Qantas social media team did a wonderful job of ensuring me that I was nothing more than a number and only worthy of canned responses. The ever so helpful it’s a safety issue response was rolled out. Though my favourite response was being told that “it’s always our aim to follow a fair and consistent approach, and the baggage allowance and dimensions must be followed to check baggage in.” Which amuses me as this bag is a 55cm spinner case which I have frequently used as carry on baggage when flying with Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar.

I can not honestly express my disappointment during this saga. As I had personally requested to fly Qantas and not the direct flight with PAL, assuring the organisers that Qantas would be the airline of choice, offering exceptional service and delivery. Instead I found my travel time doubled, the staff sulky and unwilling to provide assistance, missed the briefing dinner and meet & greet breakfast. As my journey through the Philippines progressed the story of this saga was passed among the staff who truly felt sorry for me and went above and beyond to ensure that the rest of my trip was an exceptional experience.

The sad thing about this experience is how untrusting I now am of Qantas. In July my partner and I have plans to fly to Christchurch to celebrate my birthday and Pop’s 90th birthday and had planned to fly with Qantas. We are no reconsidering our plans and looking at booking with alternative airlines.
 
 
As I have had no response or was able to get any assistance from the Qantas customer service team I am in the hope that either of you will be able to take the time out to provide me with some answers and assistance over this saga. It would be greatly appreciated if we could arrange a suitable time to discuss the incidents by close of business Wednesday 15 June.
 
 
 
I look forward to hearing from you soonest.
 
 
Kind regards,
 
 
Jeanette

What this story isn’t about

This story isn’t about money grubbing and shaming Qantas into giving me free stuff. Though I might have to reconsider that if they give me a life time brand ambassadorship, unlimited first class tickets and a pinata. That aside this is about sharing the story of what happened and ensuring that this doesn’t happen to anyone else. The staff that I came across failed in their duty to me as a passenger. Which you can read more about in the Qantas Customer Charter

This is me giving honest and critical feed back to a large corporation who differentiate themselves in a flooded market by giving the best custom service and experience. With 93% of their 30,000 staff based in Australia it’s easy to see how some things may pass them by.

Qantas is widely regarded as the world’s leading long distance airline and one of the strongest brands in Australia.

We have built a reputation for excellence in safety, operational reliability, engineering and maintenance, and customer service.

-About Our Company- Qantas.com.au

 

If you find yourself in a similar situation with any airline in an Australian situation you can contact the ACA for assistance.

The Airline Customer Advocate

The objective of the ACA Scheme is to facilitate, in accordance with the Complaints Process, the efficient resolution of complaints about Airline Services that have not been resolved by direct communication between the Eligible Customer and the Airline under the procedure provided in the Airlines Customer Charter.

You can contact the ACA at www.airlinecustomeradvocate.com.au or write to them at:

Airline Customer Advocate
Level 18, 363 George Street,
Sydney NSW 2000

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Jeanette

Jeanette

Founder, Principal Blogger & Coffee Drinker

Coffee Lover | Travel Blogger | Horse Rider | Adventure Racer | Donut Dame. Generally nice lady-enjoys wine, indie movies & random dance parties in my tent.

12 Comments

  1. 20,000 points gets you gift cards or wine or plent of other nice things.

    Reply
    • You’re right there is that potential Mike. I really could have used those nice things to make my experience better, especially when I was left stranded in Singapore with an unpaid booking from Qantas. At that time a bottle of wine or some other nice things would have made a huge difference to my experience. I aint that fussy you know. Just staff following correct procedure would have been good enough for me.

      Let’s keep it positive though- It is a small step in the right direction.

      Reply
  2. Just a quick response to your detailed horror story. My late hubby and I had a rotten experience with quantus tho,he did develop a nick name for the airline more in keeping. Atrocious manners as if bestowing Darshan upon the lowly. As for food ..well I always pack my own unless on Singapore Airlines hint hint.
    Glad you are able to get this all down in detail and hope it clears your aura n chakras etc..happy travels oh and avoid air india by all means .?

    Reply
    • Thanks for the support Debrah. You don’t expect a lot when it comes to airline food but you usually expect it to be edible. Not burnt protein mush 😉

      Singapore Airlines are amazing. Happily flown with them numerous times. I was really impressed with the food and service on both Royal Brunei and Garuda Indonesia.

      Reply
  3. The service you received truly is beyond unnacceptable, and Quantas need to be held up to account for it, and harshly too. We are experienced travellers and understand completely that things go wrong from time to time and are used to rolling with the punches, but that does not excuse any airline from customer service as bad as that. A polite smile and a simple, genuine apology right at the start is all it takes to dissolve most situations, and then of course trying to genuinely solve your problem. It isn’t rocket science is it?

    Airlines in general need to know that they can’t just treat customers like they don’t care because they have them over a barrel, and Quantas need to be heavily named and shamed for this. As you said this isn’t about getting free stuff (but a free flight of your choice and cash for your ruined luggage (which was their fault) is the VERY least they can do as compensation and to partly begin to apologise) but it is about holding them to account and making sure they know they can’t treat you (and other passengers in the future) like that.

    Reply
    • Thanks for all your support and guidance during this Mike. It will be interesting to see how the next steps go. If it goes anywhere at all…

      Reply
  4. I know, I was just teasing. Though after all that I’d want to hit someone with a suitcase!
    Oh I thought you could just redeem points on items and not have to pay anything.
    Hope it all gets sorted.

    Reply
    • ? During the whole saga I was just like what is happening here? Surprisingly I didn’t hit anyone with a suitcase!

      To redeem points you need to pay. Ie a flight you still pay the taxes and surcharges.

      Reply
  5. At least you can use Qantas point to buy things in the online store (maybe a suitcase that is suitable for carry on ?) get yourself something nice and never fly with them again.

    Reply
    • My case is suitable for carry on! I mainly use it for carry on when I worked in corporate and travelled overnight and didn’t want to bother with checked in luggage.
      If/when I use my points I’ll have to pay for the service. It’s not free! So it’s me paying twice for bad service! BUT I will say that it is a good start and a nice gesture from the team at Qantas.

      Reply
  6. You deserve more than those 20,000 flight miles gift. We call it in Filipino “pampalubag loob” or something to make you feel better.

    I have never flown on Quantas yet. But I have seen their campaigns. They surely look like the biggest in AU & among the brand giants in the Asia-Pacific region. I will take note of your experience should that time come when a Quantas option is on my plate.

    Oh please don’t fly on Quantas in October. We can’t afford not seeing you soonest!

    Reply
    • You’re too sweet Potpot! Don’t worry I’ll be back in October. One way or another.

      Reply

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