‘Infuriating’: Qantas customers face two-hour phone wait

written by Hannah Dowling | March 9, 2020

Angry Qantas’ passengers were forced to wait two hours to speak to the airline’s customer service helpline on Monday.

Disgruntled customers took to Twitter to label the delay “infuriating” and said they were offered little in the way of flexibility for those whose travels had been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

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With the increasing number of travel bans and restrictions, anxious travellers who wished to enquire about their upcoming flights, review their options, or change or cancel their travel plans, were finding it near impossible to get through to a customer service agent.

Customers said they received little information about cancelled or delayed flight connections, and were asked to wait for hours for assistance due to an overwhelmed customer service hotline.

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In some cases, after finally getting through to a Qantas employee, some customers said they were greeted by tired staff, while others had their call cut off by the staff member, forcing them to restart the call process.

https://twitter.com/rita_k00/status/1236820915842887682

 

Furthermore, customers grew frustrated by how little the airline offered for those whose travel plans have been derailed due to the increasing threat of coronavirus.

This is exacerbated by the fact that a growing number of airlines are taking steps to provide impacted customers with flexible options, as travel insurers turn their backs on consumers.

One anonymous customer told Australian Aviation he is being expected to pay $650 to Qantas in order to cancel his $3,000 round-trip ticket from Melbourne to the US.

“It’s infuriating to see all those other airlines allowing free changes or cancellations even, where Qantas is not budging one bit,” he said.

The customer said he was intending to attend a Microsoft conference in Washington state, however, following growing health concerns in the area, Microsoft advised attendees that the event will now be online-only.

The customer stated that many of his colleagues, who booked with other airlines, had the ability to cancel their non-refundable tickets for free, due to growing health concerns.

“Washington state is officially in a state of emergency,” he said, “… but Qantas says it’s fine to go.”

The customer also noted that many companies are forcing staff who have travelled to the US or other severely affected countries to take an additional 14 days of annual leave for self-quarantine purposes, leaving many employees out of pocket, and yet Qantas still won’t allow him to cancel without penalty.

“Companies here [in Australia] say ‘if you go to the US, you won’t be allowed back to the office for at least 14 days’ or even ban their employees from travel, but Qantas says it’s fine to go,” he said.

In contrast, many airlines, including Qatar, Emirates and Air New Zealand, have stepped up to provide customers who are booked to travel in March with flexible options, including to change their dates of travel, without financial penalty.

To date, it appears that Qantas has only officially been offering refunds or waivers for passengers who have had their flights cancelled and/or are booked to fly to countries where immigration restrictions have been introduced.

This means that only flights booked to or from either China and Iran are applicable, despite the growing number of cases in South Korea, Japan, Italy and the US.

Qantas did not respond to a request to comment on this matter.

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34 Comments

  • Michael Pullen

    says:

    Have been trying to get a call back regarding frequent access since 01/3/20through there fraud squad despite nitial call on 01/03/20 and a follow up call last week on both occasions was promised ra call back within 24-48 hours. Still waiting QANTAS!

  • Rod Nissen

    says:

    Qantas customer service is the pits as far as wait time is concerned any time of the day or night, irrespective of any current issue. Apparently they are closing call centres in Oz ..going to S. Africa!!!!! Can’t see anything improving. Mr Joyce should take heed because he’s upsetting his bread and butter economy customers…AND he will lose them .

  • Wayno

    says:

    Qantas’s call centre makes Centrelink look good. Even on a good day wait times of 1 hour+ are not uncommon.

  • David

    says:

    Sinapore Airlines are taking a hard line attitude as well. I could not use my flight booking because and Asian Cruise that I had booked on was cancelled. Singapore Airlines would not even refund the amount that I paid for pre-reserved seats on flights that I can’t use! Other parts of the travel industry are much more interested in keeping customers happy. Cruise Cafe (my Booking agent) and Princess Cruises showed much more integrity and much more interst in keeping their customers happy and consequently will preserve customer loyalty.

    • Rocket

      says:

      Integrity means doing what you say you’re going to do, they said there was a penalty and they’re enforcing it. I think the word you’re looking for is compassion maybe?

  • Rocket

    says:

    First world problem.
    Qantas did not create the virus and nor can it click its fingers and produce another 200-300 call centre staff around the clock.
    People need to get some perspective.

    • John

      says:

      Yes exactly. None of you are that important OBVIOUSLY

    • Ex Qantas staff

      says:

      Ha actually it not just when crisis hits these days but since they closed the Melbourne and Brisbane call centres and down sized the Hobart call centre the average call wait times are around 1 and. 1-2 to 2 hours like mentioned multiple times above! So perhaps it is you that needs to get perspective

      • Rocket

        says:

        @Ex Qantas Staff
        I suggest you look at what the wait times were when other crises have occurred in the past. I know for a fact that with thousands of staff on phones, people were waiting up to 6 hours during the pilots dispute, similar during 9/11 before any call centres were closed. This is not just Qantas, every company that has call centres has moved them off shore or closed most of them. About the only company that hasn’t is AAMI.
        That’s what I meant by get some perspective. Back in previous crises we didn’t have the sort of online access we have now either, all those things factor into closing call centres. Same sort of reasons are why print media is going broke. I worked for Qantas too and the other airlines.

    • Hutch

      says:

      @Rocket – disruption to the airline business by external factors is not unheard of in the industry. Their business continuity planning should cover this.
      Ramping up their call centre overnight is impossible… But it has been weeks. I feel sorry for the call centre staff working under this load.

  • Michael Drake

    says:

    Calling Qantas has always been difficult. I had to call twice before Christmas 2019 to change flights. On both occasions I waited two hours for a response. I wrote to Qantas as a result and have never received a reply. In my experience, the aircrew and ground staff are great but the ‘communications’ section is woefully inadequate – and that is a shame. They are not alone but do hold the record on telephone wait times. JetStar are much much better!

  • Ex Call Centre member

    says:

    Melbourne call centre – closed 4 yrs ago – 500 experienced staff redundant
    Brisbane call centre – closed 3 yrs ago – 500 experienced staff redundant
    Hobart call centre – 40% staff redundant last year
    Auckland call centre – inexperienced staff to deal under pressure
    South Africa call centre – I rather not to comment

    2 hour wait time to speak to call centre staff – trust me – they are doing a GREAT job to be just a 2 hour wait time

    Please call Alan Joyce and his puppets to explain why he got rid of 1200+ experienced staff

    • john

      says:

      cos they all cost way too much. Bloody unions priced them out of market.

  • Rid

    says:

    What do you expect ? Many calling about trivia. Should have booked through a very reliable travel agent NOT online

    • Ex qantas staff

      says:

      Ha that very reliable agent will cost you a Lot more especially when it comes to changes I can tell you for a fact.

      • Aston

        says:

        No you’re telling porkies. Besides agents have fares that airlines themselves don’t sell, eg. wholesale fares can’t be bought with airlines.

        Also we got a very good fare to USA flying FIji air in one direction & Qantas the other. This fare was not available online or direct with either airline, only through a real living travel agent & fare was better than flying either airline both ways.

    • Hutch

      says:

      @Rid – I had to call about trivia 3 weeks ago, due to the Qantas website having an issue in manage my booking. I will always try and avoid calling the call centre, but there isn’t always options.
      Qantas generally want their customers to book directly through them. They should provide the service.

      • Jack

        says:

        ah no, Qantas has a huge chunk of their international bookings made through agents. Something like 65% & often cheaper through agents & you can only buy retail fares through the airlines.

  • gail

    says:

    if mr joyce had not closed melbourne and brisbane call cenres (over 600+staff) things may be a little better. however having said that after 911 and ansett collapse the wait times were as long!

    • Rocket

      says:

      Exactly. During the Pilot strike when there were multiple staffed call centres, Ansett and Australian were taking up to six hours to answer a call. That’s what I meant by getting some perspective above.

  • John

    says:

    Call centre staff are way to expensive in oz. Airlines can’t refund everyone as not enough cash

  • Graham Hallandal

    says:

    What’s new? I booked a trip to WA for my grandson last year using FF points but went to the final step confirming the booking missing a section to change the name of the passenger to my grandsons name. Immediately phoned. Hung up after over 3 hours with no indication of the wait or offer to phone back. Rang the next day. Explained on the 1st call what had happened but told the change could take 2 days to come through!! Why? Wouldn’t a few strokes of the keyboard fix the change immediately? Several days later, no action so another call. Same promise of action & would be done in a few hours & a promise I would be phoned that afternoon to see if the problem was fixed. No return call & nothing changed. Also used their messaging system to try & fix the problem. After a lot of back & forth answering questions I was advised to phone them, something I had spent days doing.
    Finally, one week after the original booking, the change was made.No wait to speak to an operator was shorter than 2 hours. Lucky I am retired & can hang around. Qantas seems to think that they can speak to their customers at a time that suits them not the customer & the customer doesn’t matter. They also forget that a dissatisfied customer, on average tells around 15 other people. Give good service & you wont need to spend heaps of money on advertising. Your customers will do it for you.

    • Ex qantas staff

      says:

      Name changes are certainly not a few key strokes as you mention! Yes I understand very poor customer services from Qantas but coming from someone who used to work in reservations for Qantas the system they use called Amadeus (most major airlines use) it’s almost impossible to do! Far easier to refund a booking and rebook it though that has its issues from an airline perspective in itself.. most inexperienced staff at Qantas being they are all so new (I know this for a fact) would have no idea how to do this and hence why I would guess you would be getting the hung up on and major delays to the changes

      • Rocket

        says:

        Was just a few keystrokes in QUBE and Amadeus Res is based on a similar TPF platform so I’m guessing they’ve put all sorts of restrictions on it now or are they working through one of those silly interfaces???

  • Jules

    says:

    Yet another example of why booking through a decent travel agent will be worth its weight in gold.. they may not have the answer straight away but are armed with information that is just as up to date as call centres, have the ability to fix things on the spot without being on hold, and inclination to do the waiting for you if necessary..

    • Rocket

      says:

      They’re not all that great, some are useless

      • Peter Ritty

        says:

        2 hrs . Lucky them. I’ve waited 4hrs. That with no virus or problems.

        • Adrian

          says:

          Has anyone actually been contacted by Qantas as per their announcement about flight changes?

  • Simon Tieni

    says:

    after 3 calls – waiting for 3 hours the first time – no luck
    4 hours the second time and now another 2 hours -and still had no luck getting through I am convinced I’ve lost my money ..
    Thanks Qantas – can not wait to rebook again ….. NOT

  • Tim and Robb

    says:

    We always get through to qantas reasonably quickly ; had one delay recently, but nothing major.

  • Addy

    says:

    Not just Qantas either to be honest. I’ve called Virgin Australia three times and given up after an hour and a half on the phone waiting. My travel agent has been just as useless with the international phone number not dialling through and monumental wait times. It’s all just a bit crap.

  • Erik van Bilderbeek

    says:

    Currently on the phone for 3hr40 minutes. I understand that during this difficult time we have to be a little more patient.
    They must be slammed.

    Listen to this situation. I book my flight as part of their 100-year anniversary were they were giving away round trip tickets from the USA to Austalia for $200. I booked my flight for the beginning of May. I was able to obtain two tickets totaling $400. What a winl right.

    But hold on. The airline claims they are only providing me with the Value of my ticket. Which is $200 per ticket? There isn’t anything close to their normally prices tickets at $1200 (USA TO AUSTRALIA). This is crazy which means. I will have to pay the difference of $1,000 per person. Making this not so much a win for me.

    Out of all fareness they should honor the true value of these tickets and not what I paid for. As I won the tickets and was lucky enough to even obtain these.

    Are you one of those lucky winners? Let me know would love to hear how they handled your situation.

    I guess I will have to pay the difference of $1,000 per person to reschedule my flight as the value of my flight was so low. First, you think you won the lottery and not you gotta pay the difference to reschedule.

  • Don

    says:

    I have been waiting to request a refund for over 3 hours
    At the start of the call it said it might be 2 -2.5
    To add insult to injury Qantas seems to think it’s a good idea to play I
    “I still call Australia home” in Chinese to me while I wait.
    Is this Australia’s airline or have we sold qantas to the Chinese as long with he rest of the country

  • Luke Fennell

    says:

    I have been stuck in a queue for more than hour because Qantas are “having difficulty in processing my payment” and also apparently unable to call me and have requested that I contact them. They provide no detail as to what this difficulty is and the same credit card I used works everywhere else at the moment. There is no option for a call back, they can’t/won’t answer emails and they provide no information as to how long the queue is. For crying out loud guys – there are bugger all flights! How many damn customers do you have at the moment? Surely some of the out of work flight attendants can answer the phone – I am trying to give you money after all – not the other way around.

    I suspect now that Virgin is down and almost out they simply couldn’t give a toss how long they make you wait – they are now a virtual monopoly. Wonderful.

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