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.
@Qantas I’m trying to rebook a flight but your website says to call Qantas. I call and am told the wait is greater than 2hrs?! Seriously? Who waits for 2hrs to rebook a flight?! #poorcustomerservice#airlines #covid19australia
— oneproudpinay (@oneproudpnay) March 9, 2020
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.
@Qantas clearly have a dire need for call centre staff. Not sure I have the patience to hold for over 2 hours unless you are providing drinks and a snack 🙅♀️😬
— Sara (@SarStaple) March 9, 2020
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.
Earth to @Qantas.
I'm due to fly in less than 12hrs and my connecting flight has been cancelled. I don't have 2hrs to sit and wait on the phone to sort this out. What's it take to get some help?! Your local office keeps telling me to call to resolve.
— Oscar (@mightydragons) March 8, 2020
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.
@Qantas just waited 2hours on hold. Finally got through to someone and then was cut off by the agent. Seriously???
— Jimmy (@JimmyPresets) March 9, 2020
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.