Downgraded on Qantas Tickets at the Gate

In recent weeks, several AFF members have reported being involuntarily downgraded on Qantas tickets. In each case, the flight was operated by a Qantas partner airline.

LATAM Airlines downgrade

In one recent example, ozflier had paid for a full-price Business Class flight to South America with Qantas. The trip included a flight from Auckland to Santiago on Qantas’ partner LATAM Airlines. But when checking in at Brisbane, Qantas was unable to issue a boarding pass for the LATAM flight. Then, upon arrival in Auckland, this member learned they had been downgraded to Economy for the long overnight flight across the South Pacific.

I booked and paid for J class on the QF Brisbane – Auckland and the QF codeshare AKL -Santiago on Latam. I’m now in AKL the Latam staff tell me that Qantas never did the booking right and I am travelling economy to SCL…

I rang QF and they told me that as far as they were concerned , I had a Business seat AKL-SCL and I had to take it up with LATAM. They weren’t prepared to intervene!! To top it off, I couldn’t go to the Qantas lounge because I did not have a onward BP to get in.

Despite being the marketing airline on the ticket, Qantas refused to help at all (and would not even let this member use the Qantas Lounge in Auckland). LATAM, meanwhile, claimed that Qantas had given away the seat to another passenger that was originally booked on a delayed Qantas service to Santiago on the same day.

Luckily, a Business Class seat did become available for ozflier at the last minute. But the experience was a far cry from what you’d expect as a Gold frequent flyer when paying almost $7,000 for Business Class flights!

It’s lucky that ozflier did eventually fly Business Class, as Qantas is notorious for compensating passengers badly in the case of downgrades. In the case of an involuntary downgrade, it is Qantas policy to refund only the difference between the Business Class fare paid and the most expensive flexible Economy fare. The full-price Economy fare is usually much more expensive than the cheapest Economy fare available at the time of booking – which is what the customer would likely have actually paid if they’d booked an Economy ticket in the first place.

Join the discussion about the (averted) LATAM Airlines downgrade on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Beware QF codeshares on LATAM to Santiago

China Eastern downgrade

In another recent case, foggy had redeemed Qantas points to book a China Eastern flight in Business Class for their father-in-law. Despite having a confirmed Business Class ticket, China Eastern advised the traveller that they would have to pay an extra $1,400 to sit in Business Class.

At boarding gate, was pulled aside and advised that Qantas booked J class does not equal to business class on CE, he’d have to pay 7000RMB to be upgrade or take the newly assigned seat of 61F. He was advised to contact the booking agent for a possible refund. Flight was not full, the originally assigned 10J was empty for the whole flight. His boarding pass just had 10J crossed out and hand written 61F. When he went on the plane, he took the seat 10J but was told to move to 61F.

Unlike the issue with LATAM Airlines, this was not a case of overbooking. In fact, the original Business Class seat remained empty for the entire flight from Shanghai to Sydney. foggy contacted Qantas afterwards to request compensation, but so far is still waiting to hear back.

Join the discussion about the China Eastern downgrade on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Business Class award booking downgraded to economy at gate [QFF award on China Eastern]

Emirates downgrade

ozflier and foggy aren’t the only AFF members to be downgraded on Qantas tickets lately. Just yesterday, Nat reported being involuntarily downgraded from First to Business Class on an Emirates flight booked with Qantas points. In this case, there was an aircraft change at the last minute and First was no longer available. This member has requested compensation from Qantas.

If history is anything to go by, it could be a long battle to receive adequate reimbursement. But Nat does have the advantage of this being a flight departing the European Union. The EU261 laws mandate compensation for passengers that are downgraded or denied boarding on flights departing Europe.

Join the discussion about the Emirates downgrade on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: QFF EK Award Booking ex-EU downgraded from F to J

If you’re faced with a similar situation, be sure to negotiate compensation before accepting the downgrade. And if you’re not happy with the solution being offered, don’t accept it. You’ll be in a much better position to negotiate fair compensation before taking the flight than afterwards.


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]