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It’s ‘more reliable to run $10 bills through a shredder than to fly Qantas’

It’s been six days since we got the Oh dear community to help us hold Qantas CEO Alan Joyce to account by sharing their travel experiences with the national airline – and we’ve had over 100 responses.

Stories range from luggage that goes missing all holiday, only to show up at the airport they came from, to surreal stories that stretch for weeks in which flights are canceled only to be rebooked via the airline to the totally wrong city, with hours of hours spent in the customer service black hole.

What bothers readers most is the lack of accountability. When something goes wrong, it is difficult to get help, compensation or any kind of recognition and often takes months. Many have already filed a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

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Pack your bags, they’re going on vacation (just a different one than yours)

William Newman and his partner flew from Alice Springs to Amsterdam, Netherlands, via Sydney and Melbourne with Qantas, then to Dubai and Amsterdam with an Emirates codeshare ticket booked through Qantas. They arrived in Amsterdam on June 16 and at the time of writing their luggage had still not arrived.

They called the Qantas frequent flyer number in Australia and were told that there was no longer a baggage service. No one can tell them when it is expected to appear or where the last known location was.

Back in Australia Diana Abeleven was traveling with small children during the first weekend of the school holidays. She checked in their car seats, clothes, and nighttime medications, and they didn’t show up until her vacation was over.

“While I was going to the airport for our flight home, another plane arrived and threw out our bags and car seats,” says Abeleven. “So I just checked them in again and took them home.”

For her, it is the last straw for Qantas: “I will never fly them again. This is the icing on the cake after years of subpar service, especially when traveling alone with small children.”

‘No apologies, no compensation’

A common theme was frustration that when something goes wrong, the experience of fixing it or even acknowledging it was worse than the accident in the first place.

Adam had booked a once-in-a-lifetime trip to central Australia and far north Queensland. He wanted to escape the winter of Melbourne after two tough years, but two months before the travel date his flights from Uluru to Cairns were canceled and he was put on a flight four days later.

He couldn’t reach Qantas for six hours, and when he saw that alternative tickets for his vacation dates were running out, he booked a few just in case. When he finally contacted customer service, he was told that it could no longer help him change or refund his original flights because he had booked new ones, nor could the difference be credited.

“We explained that if they look now, there are no tickets” [left], so what could they have done?” says Adam. “We were unable to contact them and have made a decision not to cram our vacation.”

Then, two weeks before their journey started, the Sydney to Cairns leg of a multi-leg journey, all booked through Qantas, was cancelled. Qantas’ useful offer for replacement? A Jetstar flight that took off an hour before Adam’s flight landed in Sydney.

Bad experiences are even worse when you travel for sad reasons. Kate was on her way to Devonport for her father’s funeral last week and her flight was delayed by seven hours. A day she’d hoped to spend scanning old photos for his memorial service turned into hours at two airports, with no acknowledgment from Qantas of her experience.

“No apologies, no compensation, no access to food or the Qantas lounge…I had no customer service from them.”

Kate asked if she could continue on an earlier connecting flight and allowed Qantas to send her bags separately. Ironically, she was told that Qantas would not allow luggage to travel separately from its owner.

Qantas shareholders should be outraged

Most of all, readers are happy to know that they are not alone in their experiences, and want to know that someone is being held accountable.

A reader who doesn’t want to be named had a nightmare story about lost luggage around the world and customer service that sent them on a global goose chase. They want Qantas shareholders to stand their ground.

“Qantas shareholders should be outraged as I am not alone and will not be using Qantas in the near future.”

Naturally, the argument can be made that cutting union workers under cover of the pandemic and illegally transferring their jobs to outside contractor Swissport, then appealing a federal court decision to pay compensation to these illegally fired workers, all done in the name of the keeping costs low for customers and profit high for shareholders. Perhaps for some, that’s a fair trade for Qantas, Australia’s flag carrier.

But what good is a cheap ticket if it doesn’t get you – or your luggage – where you need to go?

Or as a Oh dear reader put it more eloquently, “It would be faster and more reliable to run $10 bills through a shredder than flying Qantas now.”

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Australia has spoken. We want more from those in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it has been made abundantly clear that at Oh dear we are on track.

We pushed our journalism as far as possible. And that has only been possible with reader support. Thank you. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, now’s the time to join tens of thousands Oh dear members to get started.

Peter Fray

Peter Fray
Chief editor

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