For four days Plane Talking has been following the misadventures of a Jetstar passenger who was bumped off an overbooked flight to Sydney from the Gold Coast, lied to, and offered inadequate compensation for being required to make her own way to a different airport, at Ballina, after refusing to rebook her on a Brisbane flight on which the Jetstar site was showing seats available.

The damage inflicted on the holiday plans of the passenger was considerable.  At one stage the passenger was told it was all because of the volcanic ash crisis, which was a fabrication, since there was no effect of Jetstar’s schedules in that part of Australia, and it had idle capacity that wasn’t flying to either Tasmania or New Zealand.

The policy at Plane Talking with consumer complaints is to confirm the identity of the passenger through the booking code or PNR record and give the airline plenty of time to address the complaint so that it’s story can be told in the interests of fairness.

But four days is too long. And the issues have nothing to do with ash clouds, but with the apparently exceedingly poor treatment of customers by Jetstar in circumstances like this.

The passenger has given us permission to publish extracts from her correspondence with Jetstar over its  unsatisfactory and inconsistent responses.

This letter is in reference to ******  from Gold Coast  to Sydney on 14 June

I received a call from your customer service agent yesterday at 21:45, telling me my flight is overbooked and they must change my flight to the next day at 11:30am and can only offer me $100 voucher for my next flight, and the extra night of last minute accommodation I must find and pay for myself and losing a day of work.

I said I need to work on Wednesday, and can’t afford to find a place to stay last minute for another $200 and also miss work on that day . I let her know I must get a flight on Tuesday (as originally booked).

She said all she could offer was a Wednesday AM flight and a future credit, no stay. I asked to speak to her boss and she said all she could do was email her to have her call me back. She told me she would call me that night.

I asked the agent to check any other flights leaving Tuesdy night in any surrounding airports including Ballina, Brisbane. She said all she had was a Ballina flight at 16:50.

I told her to get to Ballina would cost a min $50 per person, plus we had already booked a full day tour for Tuesday that ends at 16:30 for $100 each. She said I could talk to her manager that would call me that night. It is now 5 am and no one has called me. I tried calling at midnight Jetstar customer service and waited 45 min for someone that had no authority to offer me anything.

To give someone less than 20 hours notice that they must change their flight an extra day and not offer accommodation is unacceptable. To also promise a call back and having me wait around all night while on holiday is also ruining my vacation.

At the end of much going to and fro, the customer established that Jetstar had seats available on a suitable Brisbane flight that it would make available to her. (It is easier and cheaper to get to Brisbane Airport from the Gold Coast than go to Byron Bay and then Ballina.) She has now made it back to Sydney,  and sent this email letter to Jetstar, containing what seem like perfectly reasonable comments.

All I really want is compensation for the expenses I had to pay due to the flight change I was forced to take. This includes:

1. My original flight costs for booking OOL airport instead of BNK, which was $20 more expensive per person

2. Travel expenses & time from Gold Coast to BNK airport $50 per person, plus 3 hours travel time (Greyhound to Byron + airport transfer to BNK)

3. Full day tour expenses lost $99 per person, plus Voucher for roundtrip ticket in future so can be able to take the tour at a later date since you  made me cancel this one

4. Internet usage fees and 2 hours of my time $16

The inconvenience and time spent on getting back should also be considered. All the hours I spent on the phone or on hold is also not included.

We are still awaiting a Jetstar response, as is the customer.

The moral of this experience seems to be that Jetstar will lie to you, trash your holiday, and offer pathetic compensation.  It might be part of its corporate culture to tell its fatigued pilots to ‘toughen up Princesses’ but doing this to passengers seems like a perverse way to try and build consumer loyalty.

Jetstar has responded as follows:

We have investigated this situation.

Jetstar only overbooks on a small number of services, on routes with multiple frequencies.

On this occasion, we are very apologetic to (passenger name)  for her experience.

Our policy for any passenger in this rare situation is to offer them the next available flight and vouchers as a symbol of our apology. Should a customer be affected overnight, we do cover the costs of accommodation.

We will also accommodate a passenger who wishes to fly to an alternative destination however will not cover any on costs of this decision.

Through our investigation, it seems that Jessica may not have had all the options communicated clearly to her.  We sincerely apologise for this.

As we expressed to her, we did have a Customer Relationships agent trying to call her but she was unable to reach her.

To apologise for any miscommunication, we will cover transport, fare difference between Gold Coast and Ballina of $20 and internet costs that *********  has incurred by flying to Ballina.

(The passenger)  has also requested reimbursement of lost time and activities lost. We will be providing an insurance letter for her to follow up with her insurance provider who may be able to assist with those costs.

We apologise for the delay in getting back to you with the actions we have taken to date.

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Peter Fray
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