As I found myself stranded in Athens airport, surrounded by unsympathetic airline staff and forced to splash out an extra $2700 on new flights back home, I couldn’t help but feel this all could have been avoided.
Like thousands of other Aussies, I too had a nightmare experience flying with Qantas.
It’s amazing what can happen to a beloved national airline when it sacks 9000 staff, outsources thousands of jobs, moves customer service teams overseas and hands out millions in bonuses to executives.
My nightmare all started when I fell for the trap that is ‘frequent flyer flights’.
I applied for a credit card back in May (disastrous idea), splurged on a new laptop to secure 120,000 bonus Qantas points and booked my first overseas holiday in years.
There was a slight catch, my flights to Europe were from Adelaide – but given I had spent less than $1000 on taxes in addition to my points I thought I had scored a bargain.
I called up the Qantas helpline in a bid to see if they could help me book connecting flights from Sydney to Adelaide – mistake 1.
Instead of booking me a simple flight home from Adelaide to Sydney, they REPLACED my overseas return leg of Athens to Adelaide.
It wasn’t until a few days later that I noticed my overseas leg had vanished and been simply replaced with the domestic flight.
I spent over five hours that night on hold as I desperately tried to explain what had happened to call centre workers who struggled to even speak to me let alone understand my complaint.
This is of course not their fault, they are doing the best they can in difficult circumstances. The blame lies with an airline that sacrificed quality, local customer service for cheaper labour.
Just one Qantas call centre is located in Australia – and that Hobart team specifically services the airline’s premium clients (the big spenders).
I would wait two hours on hold, before finally getting onto someone – who would then spend 30 minutes attempting to understand my issue, only for them to hang up on me.
After over five hours I finally got onto someone who told me they could no longer get me on my original flight (Athens to Doha to Adelaide) as it was now full.
Qantas has since informed me that the domestic leg wasn’t ticketed correctly – which resulted in my overseas flight being cancelled.
With my trip approaching and still no return leg, I took matters into my own hands and booked another flight via Vietnam.
With so few options available I had to book the Vietnam to Sydney leg with a different airline – Jetstar.
I called up Qantas to make sure that I would be able to get a transit visa at the airport in Ho Chi Minh as I would need to check my bags in and out again during my short four-hour layover between flights.
A spokesperson told me there would be no problems getting a visa at the airport – mistake 2, blindly trusting Qantas again.
Three weeks of blissful travel – visiting my best mates in picturesque Switzerland, a romantic trip in Santorini – finished with me being stuck in Athens after Qantas’ advice was swiftly shot down.
Airline staff refused to let me on my flight as I had no visa – despite the assurances of Qantas it would be fine.
Ironically, the only option presented to me was to spend almost 2000 Euros to get back onto the Athens-Doha-Adelaide flight that I had originally booked months ago – only for Qantas to inexplicably cancel without telling me and then assure me there were no seats on the flight.
Turns out there were seats on the flight Qantas.
And while a seedy room above an Adelaide pub wasn’t exactly how I pictured closing out my trip – I was just glad to get home and be done with travelling.
“Unfortunately, it appears that the additional domestic flight was not ticketed correctly when it was added to your booking which led to the Qatar Airways booking being automatically cancelled by their system.
“Our agent was unable to secure you another seat on that Qatar flight as there were no more reward seats available on the flight.
Our contact centres are not trained to provide visa advice, rather should direct you to the relevant consulate, and we apologise that this process wasn’t followed.
“We are following up your experience with a full review to help prevent it happening again.”