A Queensland-based mum has expressed her immense frustration with Qantas after the airline booked her 3-year-old son on a seperate connecting flight – an outcome which would have seen him left in Dubai by himself for several hours.
Katherine McDonald booked a holiday on July 15 to visit family members in Europe in September.
After booking her and her husband's tickets using Qantas flight credit from earlier in the pandemic, she then called the airline to purchase a further two tickets for her 3-year-old and 3-month-old children on the same flights.
After the tickets were issued, she went through the itinerary "with a fine tooth comb" and discovered her son Robert had been placed on a different connecting flight after the initial Brisbane to Dubai leg of the trip.
"My husband and my flight departs Dubai at 08.20am however they booked my son onto the 2.40pm flight leaving Dubai which would have left him stranded in Dubai airport," she told Yahoo News Australia.
"They had my reference number so they could see my itinerary.
"It's a child’s ticket, it says his name and then 'child', so they should have been aware."
Shocked, but ultimately not surprised, Ms McDonald spent hours on the phone with Qantas trying to rectify the error and struggled to gain clarification about a new ticket, but was told she was not charged enough and would need to pay $130 more.
"I suggested this should be waived as the incorrect amount was charged by Qantas staff and due to the fact that they had planned on abandoning my child in Dubai ... but to no avail."
A Qantas spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo News Australia that "restrictions in the system" should prevent such a situation as passengers are classed as adults, children or infants on their ticket.
Adding to the stress of the upcoming trip, Qantas could not guarantee the family can sit together on the journey because the flights are with its partner carrier Emirates.
"I feel like it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of man to have a family unit sitting together," Ms McDonald said.
Instead she has been told to get to the airport early and make the request.
"Even if they call Emirates on my behalf, that to me should be part of there customer service."
Qantas says the initial mistake of putting the child on the wrong connecting flight was corrected "within 30 minutes" but a "systems error meant the updated tickets weren’t automatically issued back to the family".
"We sincerely apologise to the family for this experience," the spokesperson said.
'It's almost like you have to do Qantas' job for them'
Ms McDonald has spent hours on the phone with the airline in recent days, lamenting the inconsistent and problem-plagued customer service.
"You end up on hold for 30 or 40 minutes each time. What usually happens is then you get cut off … so then you start the process again," she said.
"If you do call Qantas, often the information is different each time… the only consistency is that they can't help with seating us together."
Ms McDonald has put in an official request to speak to a Qantas supervisor but says she was told there is no guarantee anyone will be able to call her back.
"It’s almost like you have to do Qantas’ job for them at the moment," she lamented.
Qantas reputation in a tailspin
Ms McDonald is far from alone. While her frustrations have played out weeks before taking off, in recent months countless customers have complained about missing baggage, delayed travel and flights that have been cancelled at the last minute.
The wave of discontent among Aussie travellers helped the once prestigious national carrier drop out of the top five in the latest annual scorecard from AirlineRatings.com, released last week.
Despite the ongoing problems, the airline sparked anger recently by issuing four executives with share bonuses worth more than $4 million in total.
For people like Ms McDonald, the stress inflicted by the arguably diminished carrier detracts from what is supposed to be a joyous reunion holiday for her family following years of Covid isolation.
"Yes I’m looking forward to it, but because of all the experiences you have, you almost don’t. You dread the idea of getting to the airport," she said.
"I’m just hoping if enough people start to speak to journalists as get it noticed, they will have to do something about it.
"You can see there’s a lack of training for staff members, there’s clear and obvious things that need to be fixed."
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