An Australian couple needed to fork out more than $19,000 to get home from the Netherlands following a mistake by Qantas.
Loyal customers Andrew and Meagan Lewis had booked their business class flights to and from Europe using Qantas Frequent Flyer points almost 12 months before they set off for their holiday this year.
While everything was smooth sailing on the way there, getting home was a different story.
“It was an all-round horrible experience,” Mr Lewis told news.com.au of the February ordeal.
The Sydney man explained that a text message in another language – which turned out to be irrelevant – the day before their flights home prompted him to call Qantas and check everything was OK.
Their flights home were operated by Qantas partner airline, Japan Airlines.
“We telephoned Qantas and they advised us one of our flights was delayed but the lady also said she’d fixed it all up for us on the computer … and she would send our new ticketed [flights] with the adjustment to make the delayed flight all work in the next two hours,” he said, adding that it was getting towards midnight the night before their flight.
The next morning, Mr Lewis said there was no email to be seen.
He made another call to Qantas and said after being passed around on the phone, he was informed of the bad news; they were not going to ticket the booking because of the Japan Airlines flight delay.
The reason given was that the delay meant they would not make their connecting flight from Tokyo to Sydney.
However, the news got worse.
Mr Lewis said he was told there were no other classic rewards seats available, except one economy seat from London in a week. Mr Lewis and his wife were in Amsterdam.
“They quickly advised us we could pay for a flight via Frankfurt [in a few days time]. So we’d have to get a train from Amsterdam to Frankfurt and then it was going to be with Emirates from Frankfurt to Dubai to Sydney for a total cost of just over $19,000 for the two of us,” he said.
“We felt we had no other option because we had work obligations to get home to.
“We were away quite a time so we were forced to pay the money to them over the phone.”
He said looking back now he regrets booking through Qantas again but was “rattled and shell shocked” and didn’t want to be left stranded.
Mr Lewis said Qantas would only refund the Frequent Flyer points so the $19,000 was on him.
“There was no solution whatsoever other than to pay them an exorbitant amount of money to get out of there,” he said.
He added the change also meant he had to pay two nights additional accommodation in Amsterdam, two train tickets and an additional night accommodation in Frankfurt – estimated to cost more than $1600.
In another blow, Mr Lewis said he and his wife’s Frequent Flyer points (358,000 of them) were actually not refunded to his account as promised and he was not allocated any points for the $19,000 booking.
It wasn’t until weeks later, he said, “after numerous phone calls” this was rectified.
“But after spending $19,000 I expected a bit better customer service than someone to just ignore refunding the points and not even attributing the points we gained on those next flights,” he said.
“I wouldn’t have got [the points] if I hadn’t sat on the phone for three hours.”
Mr Lewis said they wouldn’t have gone on the holiday at all if they had not been able to use their points.
“We wouldn’t have gone on this holiday if we didn’t know these flights were reward flights. It was something we wouldn’t have done unless we knew we were going to get these flights at the right price,” he said.
He said he was a Qantas gold member for about a decade or so before Covid hit, but had dropped down to bronze status and suspected the Qantas representatives he was dealing with were unaware of his loyalty to the company.
“All that loyalty, building up points, building up status credits, I was treated like I was nobody to them,” he said.
After news.com.au contacted the airline and it investigated, Qantas offered Mr Lewis an apology and refund on out-of-pocket costs he spent on flights to get home – almost three months after he first paid.
News.com.au understands when customers are travelling on a reward seat, the operating airline may need to manually release a new reward seat on another flight in order to re-book them following a flight delay or cancellation.
News.com.au also understands Qantas should have contacted Japan Airlines to request the release of a reward seat on an earlier flight to protect Mr Lewis’ multi-city reward seat booking.
“The reaccommodation of customers after a cancellation or schedule change is always the responsibility of the airline operating the flight,” Qantas said in a statement to news.com.au.
“Once we became aware that Mr Lewis’ Japan Airlines flight had been delayed and that he required a new flight, we should have contacted Japan Airlines to resolve the booking.
“We apologise to Mr Lewis for this experience.”
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