Warning – First world problem / Rant Follows: Just over a month ago I rang Qantas to ask about the upgrade status for my upcoming flight to South America. The flight was booked eleven months ago and was registered for a points upgrade to business. The conversation that follows with the Qantas Premium help desk would be hilarious if it wasn’t so pathetic. Before I could even get through to a human being I was kept on hold for 25 minutes (remember this is their premium help desk). The conversation went like this (after I had input my Frequent Flyer number, personal pin and selected the options I wanted):
Me: Can you please tell me the status of the upgrade request for my flight to South America tomorrow? (I had already provided my booking reference number and flight numbers, phone number, address etc. all to be ‘verified’.
Qantas: Certainly. I see you are on a QF flight number that is code-share with Latam. Therefore, according to our terms and conditions there is no upgrade possible.
Me: Huh? But, I booked a Qantas flight?
Qantas: Yes, I can see that, but we have cancelled that flight and have put you on the code-share flight with Latam. Qantas are not operating a flight anymore on the day of your departure.
Me: But I specifically booked a Qantas flight at the time of the original booking to get the points upgrade as a platinum frequent flyer. You can even see on your own Qantas website the option to select ‘upgrade’!
Qantas: Yes, I can see that, but I am sorry there is nothing we can do. You can try contacting Latam.
Me: If I ring Latam they are going to tell me they cant help me because I am booked on a Qantas ticket.
Qantas: Well… Yes thats correct.
Me: So you are telling me that not only can you not help me, but that Latam cant either. Is that correct?
Qantas: Sorry, thats correct. You are on a code-share flight.
Me: (Getting frustrated now) Look, and please listen, so I don’t have to repeat myself. I deliberately booked a Qantas flight with a QF flight number as a platinum frequent flyer specifically so that I could upgrade to business. If I knew you were going to cancel the Qantas flight, put me on a Latam flight and subsequently deny my upgrade I would have purchased a business seat outright to begin with; or simply, booked directly with Latam.
Qantas: I understand Sir, but you are now on a code-share with Latam.
Me: Ok, (big sigh) we don’t seem to be getting anywhere here. Please tell me how much it is to upgrade my seat to business. Ill just pay for it and chalk this up to experience not to rely on your upgrade system in the future.
Qantas: Let me check (puts me on hold for twelve minutes). Sir, there are no business class seats available.
Me: Did you check with Latam or did you just look for seats allocated to Qantas?
Qantas: I can check with Latam if you wish?
Me: Yes please.
Qantas: Ok (puts me on hold for another fifteen minutes). I cant get hold of anyone at Latam.
Me: (audible groan). Ok, look, I don’t want to go around in circles on this. I just want to be clear that my original booking was a Qantas flight with a QF flight number. Is that correct?
Me: And I was registered for the upgrade?
Qantas: Yes, I can see you were first in the cue to be upgraded and that you had sufficient points.
Me: And Qantas cancelled the flight and decided to code-share with Latam? (guess they didn’t have enough bookings on the flight to make money)
Me: At which point you no longer accept any responsibility for my registered upgrade?
Qantas: Its a codeshare flight with Latam Sir. As per our terms and conditions code-share flights are not eligible for upgrades.
Me: (Somewhat agitated by this point) Which leaves me with without the possibility of an upgrade, despite the fact I registered for it on a Qantas Flight. And it leaves me without any recourse with Latam who wont deal with me because I am on a Qantas ticket.
Qantas: There is nothing else I can do.
Me: But you haven’t done anything yet?
Qantas: Thats not true, I have told you I cant help you because you are on a code-share flight.
Me: Did you seriously just say that?
Me: Look, I have lost the better part of an hour of my life dealing with Qantas this morning. I am no better off than I was before the phone call, in fact, the situation is worse because you have frustrated me further. At least I have arrived at the pointy end of my situation realised the folly of it all.
Qantas: What do you mean?
Me: I mean Code-share is code for no one takes responsibility. You wont help me, and Latam wont help me. No one is taking responsibility. Do you have a supervisor there who has any authority to act?
Qantas: Let me check (Puts me on hold for another seven minutes) There is no supervisor available right now.
Me: Look, do you have anyone there in your office prepared to actually take some responsibility?
Qantas: Its not about responsibility sir, its about the fact that you on a code-share flight.
Me: Goodbye. Click.
As you can see I became more than a little frustrated during the course of the conversation with the representative from Qantas. When I arrived at the airport on departure day I personally checked with both Qantas and Latam desks to see if there were any seats available in business (either paying or points) and was told that the flight was totally sold out. If this had been the end of the story I probably would have just let it go, but the story did not end here. When I boarded the plane and the final door was closed ready for take off I stuck my head into business to find it half empty.
Further frustrated by being blatantly lied to I checked with both Qantas and Latam again at the next stop in Auckland. Qantas were beyond useless and simply repeated the ‘code-share’ story and told me the flight was sold out. Latam at least checked to see if there were seats available; which I was again told no, the next segment is also sold out.
Boarding for departure to Santiago I yet again discovered on take off that business was only about half full. I decided at this point to try and see the humour in the situation and simply document the experience in the hope that perhaps someone at Qantas might actually read of my experience and act on it. Subsequently, I sent this entire post to Qantas more than three weeks ago and have not received a single reply to even acknowledge receipt.
I admit, the above is definitely a first world problem. And in light of everything going on in the world it is going to seem trivial or even petty to many, but when you fly as much as I do these sort of things count. Beyond the triviality of it all though is the outright appalling lack of service and responsibility taken by what is supposed to be Australia’s premiere airline. All I can say is I am very pleased with my decision to switch to Emirates wherever possible and that Qantas is going to have to work extremely hard to win me back as a customer.
If Qantas do ever decide to get back to me I will follow up on this post with their response. I am not holding my breath though……