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Published on Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Its just not fare

Frequent Flyers everywhere beware, because if you’ve got hard-earned points, think twice before talking to Qantas, as it could cost you!

As you are aware no doubt, Qantas is linked to the oneworld network of airlines and proudly boasts their combined flight coverage reaches nearly all points of the globe, whether you’re on a Frequent Flyer ticket or not, admitting that their online Frequent Flyer booking system is incomplete, with not all destinations and flights linked into their system.

So, If you’re one of their unfortunate passengers who wants to travel to say, Istanbul, on points, accessing flights on both Qantas and British Airways, you won’t be able to make that booking on their internet site, although depending on what day and in fact, what time of day you try to access the site, determining your level of success, because sometimes Istanbul is there, sometimes it’s not!

Why did Constantinople get the works?  I don’t know, ask Qantas!

As a result, to get to Istanbul you have no alternative but to make a call to their Frequent Flyer Reservation Centre and for two passengers, that call will cost you 5000 points, just to make the booking with several weeks later, an entry on your Frequent Flyer statement reading “Assisted Booking Fee, 5000 points”.

But hang on, I couldn’t book it on line………………..so, I phoned Qantas to ask them why this was so and their response?  “………..because it’s a service we offer, and that attracts a service fee.”

Sorry, Qantas, can I have that again please?................it’s a service you offer?............ don’t you mean it’s a service you DON’T offer?

Qantas, bless them, firmly believe their own hype and have managed to convince their employees to trot out the same answers by rote, so as many of us end up having to do, I spoke to the Reservations Supervisor who told me the fees were listed in the terms and conditions, posted to me 18 months ago…………of course I should have remembered, where is that little book?  This poor man blindly believed everything his masters at Qantas had told him, and he went on to say, in defence of the airline, “We surveyed our members and have made changes to the program according to their feedback.”

Really, how interesting, no one surveyed me and I don’t think I would have told them that I wanted to spend 5000 more points to make a booking by phone when I’d prefer to do it on the net and I also know that I would not have told them I was happy for them to increase the number of points it now costs to travel anywhere.

I also most certainly wouldn’t have told them that I was happy to wait 30 minutes on the phone just for the privilege of talking to someone and then pay 5000 points for the pleasure, but apparently, all you other members did.

So, they changed the program “accordingly”, with the Frequent Flyer program terrific now with fees and charges just like a bank - just what the members asked for – maybe that is why it appeals to Macquarie Bank?  Remember, this is a loyalty program, but Qantas seems to have forgotten that!

It also seems Qantas may have lost sight of the fact that holiday travel is for pleasure, because when confirmation of my booking was eventually emailed to me, with me having to make the booking 11 months in advance to get a seat, I noticed the connection time in Sydney was just one hour and five minutes.

Now, I’ve made that connection several times before and know how tight it can be to connect with my next leg to Mumbai, which is a published connection so the flight will wait until we get there!

To make it within that one hour and fifteen minutes, I’ll need to sprint from the domestic terminal, bus it over to the international terminal, clear customs and immigration then rush on to my flight, flustered, bothered and panting. The slightest delay out of Melbourne will hold up the next leg and inconvenience the other few hundred passengers and all because the transfer time is inadequate.

So, yes you guessed it, I phoned them again to see if they could make the domestic sector a little earlier, as a type of insurance policy for them and me, with Qantas responding incredulously, “Oh yes sir, we can do that but it will cost you 2500 points for each passenger.”

While it seems inconceivable that Qantas would not change the booking and give me and them a little breathing space, I suppose that they must have their valid reason and I’ll make the connection but I won’t rush..............I won’t leave anything at the security check like last time when I was under pressure and.......................if the international flight is delayed..................... I’ll be sorry to all the other passengers.......................but it’s the airline’s fault not mine.............I tried!

Reminding myself that travel for leisure is indeed a pleasure, perhaps Qantas needs to give that some thought!

Report and Comment by Kevin Moloney, Australia based international travel writer and TravelMole contributor.

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  • Qantas

    In response to Michael Taylor's comments on 10 March 07. He is correct in stating that flights will only appear if a) they are available (meaning there are seats left) and b) there is a valid connection on your chosen date of travel. Yes it may take time to find suitable alternatives but isn't that what the call centre staff are there for? If not then why advertise the ability to contact the call centre and what actually is their job role? I did a random search from London-Melbourne for the month of July and could not find one single flight available. Yet September I get quite a few. Thinking July might be a busy month I tried Expedia and did the same search, funny how I got 63 results returned. So what is the criteria for the same flights being available via the FF website? However what I disagree with is QF charging points for the priviledge of calling a call centre in order to obtain alternatives. available. I'm a member of Emirates FF program Skywards and I have never been charged points to speak to a call centre staff member for help with booking a holiday using my points. They even offer the facility of filling in an online form to make a reward booking and again don't charge for it. Not only are Emirates a more superior airline but they have gotten the customer service aspect correct i.e. what it means to provide a service and keep their customer base. Qantas are arrogant and stuck up. How to claim to offer a service when it is all about ensuring they are not losing profit by offering minimal availability in order to sell seats. Yes I understand that may be business but Qantas really do need to start being more competitive against other more superior airlines.

    By Daniela Aufreiter, Monday, March 5, 2007

  • Pay for it if you need to get there!

    It strikes me that many of the problems associated with redeeming flight points come from ‘scope-creep’ in the product. I use my points in much the same way as they were originally intended; I accrue points through flying on QANTAS and have frequently and painlessly redeemed them for domestic use. This includes use for both upgrades and new flights. If I did use my points for overseas travel (which I don’t) I accept that this means booking well in advance and being flexible with my travel. This is not a problem as after all, I’ve received the points essentially --for free”. The picture changes for those that receive their points through a third-party loyalty program. While I do not participate in any of these products (can’t be bothered – prefer lower interest on my credit card) this approach puts airline points into the same category as a redeemable toaster or other consumer durable. Points gained in this way have an expectation of redemption and I suspect this is where many of the complaints come from. The lesson from this is that if you’re an organisation running a loyalty program make sure it encourages loyalty in your customers and don’t integrate it into other organisations loyalty programs. Why create loyalty for other people if your company looks bad? If you’re gaining points from flying remember that points are an ‘extra’ and not a guarantee of a flight to anywhere in particular on a given day. Ultimately if you need to be at a destination on a specific date and time: pay for it!

    By Neil Stollznow, Sunday, March 4, 2007

  • qantas diservice centre

    What can we do about it! Everyone you talk to has similar experiences, but do QANTAS care I don't think so.

    By Margaret simpson, Thursday, March 1, 2007

  • Cannot redemm Upgrade Credits with penalty

    I tried to redeem hard earned Qantas Status Upgrade Credits (which expire) through the QF web site but the only way to achieve an upgrade is through using points (which do not expire but rapidly lose their worth). I therefore contacted QF FF to be informed that I could try for points (no guarantee) but to use the Status Upgrade Credits (this is some kind of oxymoron surely)it would cost me 5,000 points due to manual intervention even though their web site cannot handle this transaction. To make matters worse there would be another 5,000 penalty if I needed to move to another flight to try for a flight that possibly had an upgrade available. I have since lost all my Upgrade Status points (EXPIRED) as I could not book nor find a flight to use them on. QANTAS - your attitude to your "used to be" loyal customers stinks!

    By David Smith, Thursday, March 1, 2007

  • No it's not fare - to beat up a story

    Well what an utter beat up! And of course the easiest subject to get the rabble flocking to your 'cause'. But Kevin Moloney's comments have little to do with the facts. Let's set aside the 'android-like' responses from the front line staff for a moment. After all given Kevin's determination to feel hard done by & his ommission of the facts, the front line staff member never had a hope of persuading him differently no matter what he said. The fact is Istanbul IS loaded into FF inventory on the QF website. When it doesn't appear on the day selected it's because the connection is NOT available. I've just put Kevin to the test by selecting random dates to Istanbul on the QF FF website. When the connecting service is available it comes up, when it is not the response is: 'There are no Award seats available on any flight on 14 March between Sydney and Istanbul' & the system prompts one with it's search panel to search for the next 14 days. It couldn't be clearer. Kevin has tried to convince us that FF availability loadings are random. This is not the case. His problem, like most Frequent Flyers, is that he wanted a date (quite probably at short notice or at a peak time) when seats simply were not available. It is then necessary to seek 'operator assitance' to find alternatives, perhaps meaning one has to overnight in London. This takes time & is not much different from what already happens on mainstream GDS. Frequently even on published revenue fares one has to search to find available flights & connections. And even on the GDS these options cannot come up with one entry and have to be 'broken down'. No website with any airline whether Frequent Flyer or revenue provides this....yet.

    By Andrew Haffenden, Thursday, March 1, 2007

  • No it's not fare - to beat up a story

    Well what an utter beat up! And of course the easiest subject to get the rabble flocking to your 'cause'. But Kevin Moloney's comments have little to do with the facts. Let's set aside the 'android-like' responses from the front line staff for a moment. After all given Kevin's determination to feel hard done by & his ommission of the facts, the front line staff member never had a hope of persuading him differently no matter what he said. The fact is Istanbul IS loaded into FF inventory on the QF website. When it doesn't appear on the day selected it's because the connection is NOT available. I've just put Kevin to the test by selecting random dates to Istanbul on the QF FF website. When the connecting service is available it comes up, when it is not the response is: 'There are no Award seats available on any flight on 14 March between Sydney and Istanbul' & the system prompts one with it's search panel to search for the next 14 days. It couldn't be clearer. Kevin has tried to convince us that FF availability loadings are random. This is not the case. His problem, like most Frequent Flyers, is that he wanted a date (quite probably at short notice or at a peak time) when seats simply were not available. It is then necessary to seek 'operator assitance' to find alternatives, perhaps meaning one has to overnight in London. This takes time & is not much different from what already happens on mainstream GDS. Frequently even on published revenue fares one has to search to find available flights & connections. And even on the GDS these options cannot come up with one entry and have to be 'broken down'. No website with any airline whether Frequent Flyer or revenue provides this....yet.

    By Michael Taylor, Thursday, March 1, 2007

  • 5000 points ???

    If Travelmole alerts Qantas to the publicity, will it cost you 5000 points to advise them ?

    By Peter Gray, Thursday, March 1, 2007

  • Try calling someone who cares....

    Without a Travel Agent your'e on your own!

    By George Field, Wednesday, February 28, 2007

  • Here, Here!!!

    Well said and well written! As an agent we now seen so many QF frequesnt flyer pax saying " well I cant get seats on FF so book me with any good airline instead! They are losing business over their vhsnges to their frequent flyer program.

    By Shayne Clark, Wednesday, February 28, 2007

  • To pay or not to pay

    I had the same problem when trying to book to Vancouver online from Brisbane. All it offered was a direct flight at 42k points when in actual fact it costs 96k and includes a 12hr wait in LA (the worst airport in the world). I eventually gave up trying to explain to the consultant it was not possible to book it online. I truly hope they do privatise Qantas, it can only get better. And I welcome Virgin going international to the states, Tiger airlines and hopefully Singapore and anyone else that wants to compete in this market.

    By Scott Rigby, Wednesday, February 28, 2007

  • Qantas

    Always surprises me when someone from the public finds out what travel agents have known for a long time, that Qantas has no scruples. Example. Qantas changed the way it quotes agents its credit card surcharge in mid Jan 07, but didn't let them know until mid Feb 07. So for a month QF has been collecting credit card fees averaging around $20 pp on tickets that weren't actually paid by card. When it was brought to their attention and asked how do we get back the $20 pp you have been overcharging customers, was told we could apply for a refund of the $20 but a $25 processing fee would apply to each refund! No wonder they keep making huge profits!

    By john gercken, Wednesday, February 28, 2007

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