Parents flying with their two young children were left stressed and frustrated after a last-minute cancellation of their Qantas flight meant they were "downgraded" to Jetstar without any offer of reimbursement.
Albert Chen and his family were flying from Melbourne to Scotland on August 10, with a stopover in Singapore, and paid a whopping $10,304 for all their flights on full-service airlines with the hope of making the trip easier on the kids.
On the day they were leaving, their first Qantas flight to Singapore was cancelled and they were offered a replacement flight with Qantas that would have an extra stop in Sydney, adding three hours to the trip. Flying with kids can be hard, so they reluctantly decided to opt for a Jetstar flight that did not have the same added delay and would arrive at their original time.
"The whole point of us flying direct Melbourne-Singapore was so that we would get there as quickly as possible — we did not want an extra three hours in Sydney, having to keep our kids entertained in an airport terminal," Mr Chen told Yahoo News Australia.
Refund request declined by Qantas
Shortly after, Mr Chen requested a refund for the price difference between the two airlines, saying that Jetstar flights are significantly cheaper and "a discount experience" compared with Qantas ones, but were outraged to find out they would not initially receive one.
"Qantas refused to acknowledge that our change from Qantas to Jetstar was a downgrade," Mr Chen said.
As Yahoo understands that when a customer is moved from a Qantas flight to Jetstar, rather than receiving a monetary refund, they are generally provided additional services, such as meals and baggage at no extra charge. Qantas has declined to comment on the matter.
This is not the first occasion where a person has sought out a refund for an airline change. Earlier this year, a couple were battling Qantas in an attempt to be reimbursed the difference between their original Qantas flight and the Jetstar flight they ended up being moved to.
Mr Chen is doing the same, and has continued to contact Qantas to get refunded. So far, "after chasing them" he has been offered frequent flyer points as well as a partial refund. A response, he tells Yahoo, is unacceptable.
Massive price difference between Jetstar and Qantas
Qantas on its website describes Jetstar as a "low fare airline", a detail that specialist websites like 'Airline Ratings' also make reference to. In comparison, Qantas is considered to be a premium, full-service airline — something that is reflected in the cost for Mr Chen and his family's flights.
Roughly $4,100 of the total cost for the family's flights can be attributed to the Melbourne to Singapore leg, which they had booked as Qantas originally.
When building a case to get reimbursement for the change of airlines, Mr Chen found that flights from a similar day and time showed just how much of a drop the price is for a Jetstar flight.
In the example, he found that a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Singapore for a family of four costs around $4,192 in total, and the same flight with Jetstar costs around $1,780 in total.
This can be reaffirmed when comparing most other Jetstar and Qantas fares online — Jetstar generally comes out with a lower price.
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Unclear cancellation rights for Qantas customers
Jodi Bird, Money and Travel Manager at CHOICE, a consumer advocacy group in Australia, told Yahoo if Qantas cancels your flight, they'll contact you to rebook you on the next available flight or you can choose a credit or refund.
Cancellations aren't always so black and white though, and there does not appear to be a clear path when it comes to getting a refund for airline "downgrades".
"We need clearer rules for when things go wrong through no fault of the consumer," Mr Bird said
Qantas and Jetstar flight differences
The two airlines have many noticeable differences, which Mr Chen said is the reason they paid so much in the first place.
"Jetstar was, as you might expect, a real discount airline experience and not the Qantas full service experience, which is what we paid for," he said.
Jetstar starter fares include 7kg of carry-on and checked luggage is available for extra cost, unless it is a Qantas operated flight, in which case free baggage allowance is included in the fare. Qantas include 7kg carry-on and a free baggage allowance of up to 30kg of checked baggage for all their flights.
Seat selection is complimentary on Qantas flights, unless booking a seat with extra leg room or with other requirements. It costs extra to choose a seat on a Jetstar flight.
Jetstar meals and refreshments cost extra, and need to be purchased before or during a flight. As a full-service airline, all Qantas flights include in-flight meals and refreshments — with select flights even offering complimentary wine and beer.
According to reports online, leg room is generally ever-so-slightly larger for Qantas by around an inch and the seat recline is allegedly almost double for Qantas flights.
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