Dr Bruce in New Zealand had a bad experience with a Qantas/Air France code share recently, and the Qantas ‘loyalty’ scheme. He writes:

Don’t ever fly out of Paris to Hong Kong with Qantas.

They put you onto Air France with a code share arrangement, which would be fine except Qantas is too cheap to pay Air France to give you Air France lounge access.

I am a Qantas Club member (although I won’t bother renewing this now) and my card was no good at the Air France lounge. My wife is a gold frequent flier. She could go in, but not take any guest at all. Not me, nor our two young grandchildren.

This would be bad enough except she had specifically queried Qantas on this point when she booked and was assured there would be lounge access for us all in Paris.

This is what really irks – they lied to us. The flight has a Qantas number – QF3976 – but no normal services for frequent fliers or club members.

The Paris lounge staff told us they are constantly turning away Qantas passengers. They don’t enjoy it but have no option due to Qantas’ refusal to pay.

It is late on Sunday night – there is no food to be bought air side in CDG airport. Our grandchildren are falling asleep in cold chairs with nothing to eat – thanks Qantas.

Worse, they have put us at the very back of the Qantas flight out of Hong Kong. Row 73. Why would you ever bother joining the Qantas club or being a Qantas frequent flier? We have seen the error of our ways.

This highlights a number of very annoying realities about airline loyalty programs in general, and it isn’t the first time that we have received reports about how clueless Qantas staff are when it comes to the terms and conditions that apply to their own product offerings.

These realities are:

  • Loyalty programs are in general profit centres that have almost nothing to do with the loyalty of frequent flyers and nearly everything to do with flogging points to third parties like retailers or credit and charge card schemes to reward their customers.
  • Airlines are generally reluctant to lavish their lounge facilities on the reciprocal rights holders of other loyalty programs unless they can extract a tangible cash benefit, such as a user charge paid by one airline to another.
  • The benefits of these programs have been in decline for some time, notably with the breakage of the old links between one point and one mile flown in economy, or one point per one dollar, pound or euro spend on a loyalty points generating card payment system, notwithstanding special bonus offers.
  • Any competent travel agent can detect and caution as to issues like those experienced by Dr Bruce, and on occasions, by myself, and sell for a competitive price an alternative arrangement that may prove less disappointing.