A couple of weeks ago I featured a thread on the Australian Frequent Flyer forums in which a couple had been involuntarily downgraded from business to economy on their flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. They were evidently offered the choice to fly next day in business, or they could fly same day in economy – that was the deal, take it or leave it.
Since I wrote that post, more information has come to light and the thread has grown to more than 800 posts. I of course encourage you to read the entire thread as it is utterly captivating, but in the interest of time management allow me to summarize the timeline of posts of the involved parties:
- EmilyP – daughter of the displaced passengers
- BNEFlyer – friend of EmilyP who is assisting her and her family in the matter
- Red Roo – official forum representative for Qantas
Oct. 17: BNEFlyer initiated the discussion and EmilyP confirmed the issue. Red Roo replied that same day and noted that Qantas was working on the matter.
Oct. 18: BNEFlyer provided an update. The couple was now home. They were told that the flight was oversold in business. One flew in economy and the other received a business-class seat due to a no-show. Inflight staff seemed surprised that they were selected for the downgrade (the couple had paid for the business-class seats and hold Gold status with Qantas) – said non-status passengers flying on award tickets should have been downgraded before them.
Oct. 19: EmilyP confirmed BNEFlyer’s update:
They were told at check in their seats had been sold to someone else and they were being downgraded to economy with a ‘restitution’ of USD$700 each.
When faced with the hard questions i.e. ‘Why were our seats given to someone else?’, no explanation given.
Oct. 20: EmilyP’s mom calls Qantas customer care:
She was advised (exact quote) “Even though Qantas confirms your ticket, as per our terms and conditions you are not guaranteed a seat on an aircraft”.
The ‘compensation’ offered to my parents was, in their opinion, not good enough. This included some QFF points and a voucher for a future flight. After being loyal to QF for many years, at this stage even the offer of a ‘free’ flight is not enough to get them back onto a QF aircraft. My parents are still considering their options regarding acceptance of the compensation.
In response to EmilyP’s update, Red Roo replies:
…our Customer Care team have since contacted her parents to personally discuss the circumstances, and have offered them a gesture of goodwill over and above our guidelines in recognition of the downgrade and overall unhappy experience.
As some have pointed out, overbooking flights is not exclusive to Qantas. Operational changes such as aircraft types and rolling delays can also play a part in such situations. Our estimates for cancellations and ‘no shows’ are occasionally lower than expected, which is what happened on this occasion. I fully appreciate that we’ve let Mr and Mrs EmilyP down, especially in the way this situation was handled.
For your reference, Mr and Mrs EmilyP were offered alternatives, including the option to overnight at our expense in LAX with confirmed Business seats on QF16 the next day. As this was not an option for them, the ground team confirmed the only available seats.
But BNEFlyer finds Red Roo’s explanation wanting in many respects:
Was the option to fly on QF12/94 in Business offered? And were there no W seats available?
I’m also wondering why status pax in Business Class weren’t asked to volunteer to downgrade or fly the next day, rather why they were told that’s what was going to happen?
There seems to by no rhyme or reason as to who QF decides gets offloaded or downgraded. Or that QF gives any consideration to their customers needs (if you want to fly on the day you booked and there’s no other option, too bad. Take what you’re given and be happy with it).
As does EmilyP:
Unfortunately the ‘gesture of goodwill’ statement in itself is a bit insulting. QF should have provided what my parents paid for.
Could you also advise why:
* My parents were not asked to downgrade, but told? This seems in direct conflict with your ‘procedures’. QF loves their procedures when it suits them, but don’t seem too concerned with following them when required.
As previously stated on this thread, I’m aware that this situation happens only occasionally. Unfortunately though it DID happen and the entire situation was handled (and continues to be handled) appallingly.
Qantas have been so dismissive over this whole thing. I just cannot believe they would treat customers this way. Especially loyal customers.
I’m going to step away from the computer now, because your response has made me mad. It seems QF are more interested in stating why they were right in this situation.
Oh and FYI – my parents have yet to receive a FULL and HONEST explanation from Customer Care as to what exactly happened.
And in a follow-up post addressing questions from other AFF members, EmilyP details the exact compensation offered to her parents:
A $500 Qantas flight voucher that is valid for only 12 months
* 50,000 FF points
* The FF points he would have earned on Business rather than Economy
* The difference in fare between Business and Economy HOWEVER he was advised (exact quote) “It will not be as much as you expect”
Oct. 22: BNEFlyer posts an update from EmilyP’s parents:
I have an update from EmilyP’s parents… Flight Centre have submitted the refund calculation request to Qantas and they have been advised that it will be 2-3 weeks before they have any word from Qantas about a) if they will get a refund, and b) how much it will be if they are entitled to one. EmilyP’s parents did ask QF directly if they could handle this and they said no, the request had to come from Flight Centre.
To inconvenience two passengers, let alone SG and J class pax and then make them do all the work to find out if they’re entitled to any form of reasonable compensation and then also make them wait what will be up to 4 weeks for a result is completely unacceptable behaviour by Qantas IMO.
This information, combined with previous responses to this thread from RedRoo (who has been quite silent lately) just shows that with Qantas it’s put up and shut up. What they say goes and if you want to question that, it’ll be at your own peril.
Oct. 28: Red Roo returns to the conversation to attempt to address several of the concerns/questions that have been raised:
We’ve immediately and personally apologised to the customers about the handling of this matter at Los Angeles, including the communication style regarding lounge access and compensation offered on the spot.
Our internal guidelines are beyond the minimum IATA requirements to allow individual, overall experiences to be considered by way of discretionary goodwill gestures.
The goodwill offered by Customer Care on this occasion was in addition to any fare differential offered by the agent, and the cash payment received at Los Angeles airport at the time.
Our yield management team is recognised as one of the best in the industry, however they don’t always get it right due to various operational reasons. A call out was made earlier in the day looking for volunteers to either downgrade or travel on the following day with the same offer of compensation.
However our team were unsuccessful in finding customers to reconsider their plans, and while not ideal, the last resort is to rely on no-shos and customer’s last to check in (including online check-in) to make the final decision.
I can assure you that there were no Qantas employees onloaded in Business or Premium Economy on QF16 LAX/BNE 16OCT, on either Duty or Leisure Travel categories.
Oct. 29: Red Roo addresses questions raised by his/her Oct. 28 post:
Tier status was not a factor in the outcome, nor was the value of the original fare purchased. While these aspects were referenced in post #1 and have been included in the ongoing conversation, I’ll leave it to BNEFlyer and/or EmilyP to disclose the customer’s tier status and fare details should it be of interest to you.
To clarify, “the outcome” is in reference to the goodwill discussed with Customer Care. Tier status would have been considered in the early stages, and as per our internal procedures and guidelines for managing such situations (e.g. during the initial call out period etc…).
Disruptions of this nature are often the last resort for any airline, with tier status, extenuating circumstances and seat availability amongst the many operational factors taken in to account when making alternative arrangements.
Given the high interest in this thread, I can understand the need for some to analyse and interpret my posts. I can personally and truthfully assure you that each case is reviewed independently, using our guidelines as a benchmark to ensure some consistency.
And that is essentially where we currently stand with this thread. Obviously, the still very large and looming question is: Why were these particular passengers denied their seats? What, specifically, is the algorithm for determining in which order passengers in a overbooked business-class situation are denied their seats?
The onus seems to be on Qantas to prove that older passengers aren’t being selected by the gate agents simply because they are easy marks who probably won’t fight back too much. As is so often the case in politics, this might prove to be a case where the initial act doesn’t hurt the company as much as the reaction and cover-up.
Continue to follow this enthralling thread in its entirety: Downgraded from Business Class.