MELBOURNE – A passport is often the pathway to endless possibilities. It brings us together and allows us to explore cultures, see loved ones and grow as humans.
However, when the coronavirus outbreak arrived in early 2020, the world was thrown upside down, especially in a travel sense, with widely airlines suspending all international flights and the general public is restricted to their existing location.
In turn, loved ones were separated, people missed birthdays, weddings, funerals, and more.
But First… A Previous Gripe…
For myself, I was stuck in the U.K. for most of the pandemic. In addition, I have been unable to see my girlfriend since the start of the pandemic.
So from September of 2021, I returned home and am, at the time of writing, based in Melbourne, Australia. Qantas is the flag carrier and the primary source of flights out of Australia.
So when it was announced borders were opening, and I’d finally be able to make the journey out of a country labeled as a prison to Montreal in Canada, I didn’t expect the next four months would go quite how they would with a carrier that labels itself as the ‘Spirit of Australia’ and adorns the Australian flag.
In late October, Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, announced plans to slowly re-open borders essentially, for better words, those with an Australian passport were now permitted to come and go as they please.
The catch? Only the states of New South Wales and Victoria were participating in this.
For me, this was the news I had been dreaming of for a very long time. Having left the United Kingdom a week before borders re-opened to Canada, I had certainly felt on the unlucky side.
Plans were quickly wheeled in motion to make the trip to Montreal for just after Christmas, and I booked my flights with Qantas flying through the United States with stops in Los Angeles and New York before traveling onwards north to Montreal.
Qantas, however, was an airline that had ceased all international operations throughout the pandemic, operating only a handful of repatriation flights with 72 hours’ notice at times.
These flights were unachievable for many stranded Australians who did not have the time to pack up life within 72 hours, understandably.
Therefore, the re-opening of borders was played into the hands of Qantas, with other airlines initially unable to agree to a firm schedule due to the lack of understanding of slots and border restrictions, meaning any Australian that genuinely needed to fly was left with no option other than Qantas.
By November, flights had been adjusted numerous times automatically, from having a layover of negative 7 hours to having a layover of 15 minutes in Los Angeles to transfer between terminals and from a domestic to an international flight.
To be told by Qantas, 10-15 minutes was more than adequate, setting the tone for the nightmare later.
Fast-forward to December 20th, six days before departure, the province of Quebec, amid the new Omicron variant, announced plans to enter into a lockdown, with a curfew and all non-essential travel, business, and more banned from operating or taking place.
Left no choice, I opted for a travel voucher with Qantas 4 days before departure, a voucher that would allow me under the conditions to rebook travel at any point using the credit accumulated.
Upon the cancellation, I did not receive a confirmation. As the lockdowns continued and the weeks passed, Christmas turned to New Year, and I had just returned from a trip to the United States to cover the reveal of Northern Pacific Airways.
4 weeks after the cancellation, I still had not received a voucher, nor any confirmation to confirm the flights had been removed in the first place. Immediately red flags were waving.
Fast Forward To A Couple Of Weeks Worth of Pain Later…
As Quebec re-opened, a visit to Montreal to finally be with my girlfriend arrived back on the cards. Flights, therefore, needed to be rebooked as after two years, patience was wearing thin.
However, with no voucher, a call to Qantas was required to try and organize a very simple rebooking of flights for the end of February 2022.
Little did I know that this would turn into the longest, most frustrating, and most pathetic experience I’ve ever had, not just with an airline but with a company in my 21 years.
On January 26th, two a half-hour phone call was made to Qantas customer service to rebook flights to Montreal from Melbourne. Despite it being near on impossible to understand, hear and get through to someone, I was rebooked finally from Melbourne to Sydney, onwards to Los Angeles, then through to Washington Dulles and onto Montreal, the return leg being strikingly similar.
Upon being told an itinerary would be issued within the hour, nothing arrived. In addition, I was unable to confirm seats or adjust anything with the booking without getting an error.
The following day after three and a half hours on hold, I got through to an agent who informed me they were confused about the problem and were very busy, so they’d put me on hold.
Five minutes later, I was no longer on a call. Immediately calling Qantas back and waiting another 3 hours to speak to someone, I was informed by a customer service agent that they didn’t understand what had happened to my booking so would re-issue the ticket.
I was subsequently put on hold for 45 minutes and then again had the call fail. Presuming I would receive my ticket and itinerary in the coming hours, I gave up for the day and decided to give Qantas the benefit of the doubt.
A day and a half later, and with no further confirmation and a booking that still could not be accessed, I got back on the phone with Qantas for what would be another eight-hour-long endurance test.
The result was new flights booked the opposite way around the world, flying with Qatar Airways via Doha and back to Australia through the United States, giving me my first round the world trip! An itinerary was sent, and for the first time, I was excited at the prospect of being with my partner.
However, two days later, the Qatar Airways flights dropped off the booking reference, meaning I no longer had flights to Canada. Another call with Qantas was, so that spammed across 5-6 hours in length, patience wearing thing and consistently having calls fail after hours on hold I express my disapproval of the airline’s service.
Ironically that same call would also result in being on hold and having the call fail. After the 6 hour stint of various failed attempts to try and find the root cause of the issue, I was informed that the ticket needed to be re-issued.
This didn’t fix any of the problems, and after another day spent on the phone. I was given a new route through Canada, flying with Air Canada and Qantas.
Following the new flights being arranged, I once again couldn’t access my booking and was had an utterly useless Qantas booking site that had errors everywhere.
A day later, having calmed down, I found that a crucial leg from Vancouver to Montreal had been removed from my booking. The reasoning?
An agent working in customer service at Qantas had accidentally pulled the leg, in turn, stuffing the entire booking, the catch from all this?
Qantas said I needed to pay the difference in the leg, to which I shut down instantly, enforcing that I would not be paying any difference for the mistake on their part.
In turn, I was put on hold and left to listen to the jingles and placeholder messages which I can now say I remember by heart. An audition for Australia’s got talent might be in order for memory, something I’m not usually good at!
Having lost all patience and following the accidental removal of a leg of my journey, I brought out the big guns and contacted Qantas head office, hoping I could speak to someone not working at a call center.
I was put through to the Qantas Premium what I was led to believe the team and explained the situation, in what would be a 3-hour ordeal that saw me get the most help I’ve ever received.
However, I wouldn’t be fooled.
Three hours into the call, with the flights a fingernail away from being sorted, I was put on hold, despite explicitly stating throughout that I did not want this to happen and would rather listen to typing on the keyboard.
Three minutes later, the call dropped out, and I was left none the wiser once again.
Thankfully, following a callback, I was put through to a woman who sorted the entire situation out, new flights were re-issued, and I was officially back with Qatar Airways flying from Melbourne through to Montreal via Doha, the return leg being the same.
At this point, I was just thankful to have flights. Following this being sorted and having an updated itinerary, I didn’t see how it could go any more wrong.
When 48 hours later it did, and my booking was non-existent, what I mean by that is not only had all flights disappeared, but in addition, my booking reference was no longer trackable without it posting error messages, claiming the booking reference didn’t exist.
After another 4 hours spent with Qantas customer service at their head office, I was informed after all that Qantas never had the authority to book me on the Qatar Airways flights, something that would’ve been incredibly helpful for someone at head office to know.
For not the first, second, or even third time, a new route was issued with now no flights remaining on the initial return date I needed.
Qantas once again informed me that because of this would need to pay the fare difference, which I, in the kindest manner possible, rejected.
The return route in question was as follows…. Montreal to Charlotte Douglas, Charlotte Douglas to Dallas Fort Worth, Dallas Fort Worth to Toronto Pearson, Toronto Pearson to Calgary, Calgary to Vancouver, Vancouver to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Sydney, and finally Sydney to Melbourne.
While being an aviation enthusiast at heart, the prospect of some 50+ hours of traveling wasn’t favorable, and I, in the kindest way, rejected this flight and asked why I couldn’t get the direct flights I was given five times prior.
Being put back on hold, you know how the story goes the call failed, and I was back at square one, with no valid voucher in my inbox, no flights, and a booking reference that couldn’t be found.
The next day I was determined to have the flights fixed.
Calling Qantas, I explained the situation and was given flights that made much more sense, a new ticket, and booked seats.
Thrilled with this new power, I had found that after 32+ hours in communication with the Spirit of Australia, I paid the extra money to get a priority seat on Air Canada for a trip report.
Sleeping like a baby for the first time in a week for the next 48 hours was pure bliss until posting my #JustBooked action over on Twitter and needing to provide my seat number.
Upon opening the Qantas app, I was greeted by the vision no one wants to see, especially me, a booking that no longer said it was going to Montreal instead of having a cut-off point in Vancouver and a return leg originating in Los Angeles.
Yes, my Air Canada flights had dropped off the booking after paying a substantial amount of money for seats. Later that day, after calling Qantas, they informed me they had re-issued the ticket.
Air Canada Is A Better Communicator Than Qantas…
However, I was still unable to access the booking hours later. A call to Air Canada was made, whom I managed to get through to in 3 minutes, get a detailed explanation within 10 minutes, and have seats held on my booking awaiting payment in a total time of 15 minutes without being put on hold once.
I was informed that Qantas had not re-issued the ticket correctly.
Throughout this experience, I continued to document the struggles across over on my Twitter account, to which, without a mention, Air Canada’s official Twitter followed me, replied, and sent me a D.M. asking if they could be of assistance.
Max, an employee at the Canadian airline, explained to me the situation within 3 minutes, and I understood better than anything Qantas could explain to me in 32+ hours of communications.
After more struggling, it was revealed that Qantas did not re-issue the ticket correctly for Air Canada’s systems, and after what following calculations were 38 hours spent on the phone with Qantas, I had tickets, seats booked with Air Canada, American Airlines, and Qantas themselves and as of the time of writing have a confirmed ticket.
Deplorable Customer Service…
To conclude, I’m very passionate about the industry; I don’t like having a go at airlines or an aircraft, generally speaking, when it comes to flying, I’m very easy to please. I’m happy with just a seat.
By no means is this experience the fault of the lovely cabin crew or pilots. However, how a company as big as Qantas has had such deplorable customer service is beyond me.
Having spent close to 40 hours in the space of 7 days unable to get a fix that should’ve taken 10 minutes implemented baffles me. To the point where during one call, I had to explain what the words transit and layover meant to an agent and even explain my theory on what they could do to fix my booking shouldn’t be on.
Qantas is the flag carrier of Australia, but I won’t be flying them again as a paying customer, and for such the sum Qantas charges, having a customer service system that cannot help you is a major red flag.
There are far better airlines that care more about their customers that I would recommend to you. I value my money, and would I give it to Qantas again? Absolutely no.
Not a single bit of this experience leads me to believe they deserve my time and money as an airline. I’d say to Qantas, who have continued to be on a P.R. spin thanks to new routes, borders re-opening, and the Spirit of Australia back in the air, look deeper into your company and realize that there’s far more to an airline than just your social media influence and P.R.
To anyone reading this, you can interpret the experience.
However, you wish. I would say, if you can, actively avoid giving your business to Qantas.
While this is my experience, all it takes is a browse of social media to understand my story is one of the hundreds of others experience every single week and in a world of restrictions, having access to support is critical.
We approached Qantas for a comment on the events that occurred with Daniel. They said the following:
“The current Omicron situation has driven a huge spike in calls from customers which has meant our customers have been experiencing longer wait times, which we sincerely apologize for.”
“We have also reached out directly to Daniel to apologize for his experience. We’ve trained hundreds of new agents and continue to hire and train more so we can reduce wait times as much as possible.”
“We are also introducing new processes around callbacks to make sure our operators are contacting customers if a call drops out.”
With all that being said, I am excited more than ever to finally be with my girlfriend after cancellations, a pandemic, restrictions, and much more, and I hope you’ll follow me along the journey.
While this saga caused much stress, I hope it did cause you a couple of laughs due to the utter pathetic nature of the tale.