Qantas Forces Business Passenger to Accept Downgrade

Qantas Forces Passenger to Accept DowngradeA Qantas Business class passenger has vowed never to fly with the airline again, after they were forced to accept a downgrade to Economy on an overnight international flight.

Janet Riddell had paid for a Business Class ticket on Qantas flight QF80 from Tokyo Narita to Melbourne. The ticket was booked seven months in advance. At check-in, this member was advised that the flight was overbooked in Business class and they were being downgraded. This person had been selected to receive a downgrade as they only had Bronze Qantas Frequent Flyer status.

The Qantas check-in staff promised a refund voucher as compensation, as well as the usual Qantas downgrade compensation. For international flights, this amounts to 50% of the affected coupon value of the ticket. However, this member was not happy with the offer.

We said this was not good enough and eventually a Qantas employee came and said we had no choice, there were 3 seats not working in Business class.

For what it’s worth, a Qantas Economy class ticket from Melbourne to Tokyo typically starts at around $711 return. Currently, the cheapest Business class ticket available on this route costs $4,173 return. So, even with a 50% refund of the Business class ticket price, this would still leave a customer out of pocket.

Left with no choice but to accept the downgrade, Janet Riddell flew back to Melbourne in Economy class. Despite the efforts of cabin crew, it was an uncomfortable flight and not what this member had paid for nor was expecting.

The flight crew tried very hard to make us feel better but of course can’t make up for lack of space etc. My travel companion was unable to sleep or stretch out as is too tall, and my back was very sore by the end of the flight.

To make matters worse, Janet Riddell is now having trouble contacting Qantas to claim the promised compensation.

We are now having difficulty getting thru to Qantas Customer Service on the phone, holding for 2 x 1 hour so far with not success. So the frustration continues and the disappointment in Qantas.

We reached out to Qantas, who told us that the downgrade was necessary because a couple of seats in the Business cabin became inoperable due to a fault in the electronics.

“Unfortunately a couple of passengers were downgraded on a flight travelling from Tokyo to Melbourne after two seats in the Business cabin became inoperable,” a Qantas spokesperson told Australian Frequent Flyer.

“While the situation wasn’t ideal, safety will always be our priority,” they added.

The Qantas spokesperson told us that the affected customers were offered refund vouchers for their inconvenience, which have not yet been redeemed. (This might be because the customer has been unable to get through to the Qantas call centre!)

Qantas says that it encourages its passengers to raise issues such as these via its customer care feedback form.

Disappointingly, it seems this passenger was not offered any alternative other than to accept the downgrade. The customer was not offered an alternative flight via Brisbane or on another airline, or even the option to travel the next day. Furthermore, it seems the offer of compensation was made on a “take it or leave it” basis. Given a choice, it is clear that Janet Riddell would not have chosen to accept Qantas’ paltry offer.

This customer does now have the choice to vote with their feet when booking future travel.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Qantas Business Class customers bumped to economy in Tokyo


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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]