(Image: Adobe/Private Media)
(Image: Adobe/Private Media)

It’s been six days since we asked the Crikey community to help us hold Qantas CEO Alan Joyce to account by sharing their experiences of travelling with the national carrier — and we’ve had more than 100 responses. 

Stories range from luggage going missing for the entirety of their holiday, only to turn up at the airport they left from, to surrealist tales stretching for weeks where flights are cancelled only to be rebooked via the airline to the entirely wrong city, with hours upon hours spent in the black hole of customer service.

What rankles readers most is the lack of accountability. When things go wrong, trying to get assistance, compensation, or any kind of acknowledgment is difficult and often takes months. Many have already complained to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Pack your bags, they’re going on holiday (just a different one from yours)

William Newman and his partner flew from Alice Springs to Amsterdam, Netherlands, via Sydney and Melbourne with Qantas, then on to Dubai and Amsterdam with an Emirates code-share ticket booked through Qantas. They arrived in Amsterdam on June 16, and at the time of writing their luggage still hadn’t turned up. 

They called the Qantas frequent flyer number in Australia and were told there was no baggage service any more. No one can tell them when it’s expected to turn up or where its last known location was.

Back in Australia, Diana Abeleven was travelling with small kids during the first weekend of the school holidays. She checked in their car seats, clothes and nightly medicine and they didn’t turn up again until her holiday ended.

“As I went to the airport for our flight home, another plane arrived and out popped our bags and car seats,” Abeleven says. “So I just rechecked them back in and got them home.”

For her, it’s the final straw for Qantas: “I’ll never be flying them again. This is the icing on the cake after years of subpar service, especially when travelling with small kids solo.”

‘No apologies, no compensation’

A common theme was frustration that when things go wrong, the experience of trying to get it fixed or even acknowledged was worse than the mishap in the first place.

Adam had booked a once-in-a-lifetime trip to central Australia and far north Queensland. He wanted to escape Melbourne winter after two tough years, but two months before the travel date his flights from Uluru to Cairns were cancelled and he was put on a flight four days later. 

He couldn’t get through to Qantas for six hours, and seeing that alternative tickets aligned with his holiday dates were running out, he booked some just to be on the safe side. When he finally got in touch with customer service, he was told it could no longer help him change or refund his original flights as he’d booked new ones, nor could the difference be credited. 

“We explained that if they looked now, that there are no tickets [left], so what could they have done?” Adam says. “We couldn’t contact them and made a decision so as to not stuff our holiday up.”

Then, two weeks before their trip began, the Sydney-to-Cairns leg of a multileg journey, all booked through Qantas, was cancelled. Qantas’ helpful offer of replacement? A Jetstar flight that left an hour before Adam’s flight landed in Sydney. 

Bad experiences are even worse when you’re travelling for sad reasons. Kate was travelling to Devonport last week for her father’s funeral and her flight was delayed for seven hours. A day she had hoped to spend scanning old photos for his memorial service turned into hours spent in two airports, with no acknowledgment from Qantas about her experience.

“No apologies, no compensation, no access to food or the Qantas lounge… I had zero customer service from them.”

Kate asked if she could travel on with an earlier connecting flight, giving Qantas permission to send her bags separately. Ironically, she was informed that Qantas didn’t allow baggage to travel separately from its owner. 

‘Shareholders of Qantas should be furious’

Most of all, readers are glad to know they are not alone in their experiences, and want to know that someone will be held accountable.

One reader who doesn’t want to be named had a nightmare tale of baggage lost around the world and customer service sending them on a global goose chase. They want Qantas shareholders to put their feet down.

“The shareholders of Qantas should be furious as I am not alone and will not be using Qantas any time in the foreseeable future.”

Of course, the argument could be made that slashing the unionised workforce under cover of the pandemic and illegally offloading their jobs to third-party contractor Swissport, then appealing a federal court decision to pay these illegally sacked workers compensation, is all done in the name of keeping costs low for customers and profits high for shareholders. Maybe for some, that’s a fair trade for Qantas, Australia’s national carrier, to make. 

But what use is a cheap ticket if it’s not going to get you — or your luggage — where you need to go?

Or as one Crikey reader more eloquently put it: “It would be faster and more reliable to feed $10 bills through a paper shredder than flying with Qantas right now.”