Traveller letters: How could Qantas just lose a passenger?

MISSING PERSONS

How equipped is Qantas for big or small problems? I pondered this while I sat on a flight to Hamilton Island with my family, minus one son, after Qantas forgot to re-book his flight after our original flight was cancelled.

Qantas staff assured us we were booked with another carrier, Virgin, on a flight leaving in an hour's time. Well, at Virgin check-in, three of us were booked. But Qantas did not send a message to the Virgin check-in desk to say our son should also be on the flight.

How can an airline lose a passenger? What would happen in a catastrophe? Effective and efficient communication is essential as it is not only about getting from A to B, it's about being safe.

Qantas told our son he might be able to be put on a flight to Proserpine, then catch a bus, then a ferry. Really. Our half-full plane took off with only three of our distressed family.

This saga raises more questions than answers. Two weeks later, and after many phone calls and emails, Qantas refused to refund the $61 ferry fee to my student son even though prior to catching it they promised they would.

Simon Kenyon, Hawthorn, VIC

LETTER OF THE WEEK: POORLY COACHED

We have recently returned from a trip to France and used Rail Europe to book tickets from Paris to Bordeaux and then Bordeaux to Paris at the end of the trip. While the first trip went off without a hitch, when we went to board the train in Bordeaux for the return trip we discovered the coach on which we had a reserved seat did not exist. This was despite receiving an email from Rail Europe a few days before our journey with a duplicate ticket for those seats.

When we discovered the problem we were directed by rail staff on the platform to go to another coach and simply find a seat. As we had two large suitcases and the train carriages were double-decked this was a bit challenging.

We eventually found a seat but then had to vacate it and find another seat when people got on at subsequent stations with actual reservations for the seats we were sitting in. We both love train travel but this was not the relaxing journey we had been looking forward to.

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I contacted Rail Europe when we arrived in Paris and have continued to contact them since our return with no actual response to my complaint other than to tell me that I have been referred to their "after sales team". I didn't think to do any research on them before I left, but my post-trip research has revealed a myriad of complaints about their service if you encounter a problem.

Debra Miniutti, Ashbury, NSW

PASSES THE TEST

In response to Sally Edsall's claim about the Italians doing passport renewals better than Australians (Traveller letters, July 1), let me just say this: the Australian passport is one of the safest and least-defrauded forms of identity in the world. The lengths we go to keep our passports secure and not open to fraud are tremendous and the envy of other countries.

In comparison, many other passports (including Italian ones) are often misused and copied for all kinds of things, including organised crime and terrorism.

So I am personally quite happy for my Australian passport renewal to take time given the high degree of checks and balances by our excellent public servants.

Elly Howse, Newtown, NSW

CASE STUDY

A warning to travellers who end up with a damaged bag – get a receipt. Last September I flew from Sydney to Adelaide and upon arrival found my suitcase was damaged, with one wheel broken and a large black skid mark on one side. I reported this to a customer service representative who said Qantas would be in touch.

Last month, after patiently waiting for a response, I contacted Qantas who told me that they had no record of the incident and therefore would not compensate me.

So because a QF staff member is either too lazy to report the matter or too busy I end up with a damaged case.

Christopher O'Connor, Murray Bridge, SA

Adding to the recommendation in the cover story in the June 17 edition of Traveller, regarding music venues around the world, the Iranian city of Isfahan provides a wonderful experience for music lovers.

If you are in Isfahan make sure to visit the Isfahan Music Museum in the Jolfa area. You'll find a beautiful collection of traditional Persian instruments (some of them hundreds of years old), with a number of them offered to you to hold and examine.

Then it's downstairs for a recital of traditional Persian love songs by the museum staff. A fascinating change from gazing at the city's beautiful buildings.

Allan Roberts, Marrickville, NSW

DUTCH MISTREAT

My wife and I booked flights from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam on KLM with a travel agent. However, I developed a serious streptococcus septicaemia and chikungunya virus following a trip to India.

Despite doctors' letters, pathology reports and the agent's pleas, KLM refused us a change in dates and One Cover travel insurance wouldn't refund the $3500 fares.

Ashley Berry, Toolijooa, NSW

THE RIGHT POLICY

I don't understand Chris Patten's gripe with United Airlines over their refusal to provide accommodation and meal vouchers following a flight delay (Traveller letters, June 24).

Everybody knows you don't travel in North America without travel insurance. All good travel insurance policies provide cover for accommodation and meals resulting from delays such as that described in the letter.

A timely reminder of the importance of travel insurance for overseas travellers.

Adam Gordon, South Coogee, NSW

GLUTEN FOR PUNISHMENT

In the past eight months, we have travelled Qantas four times and every time my specially ordered – and confirmed – gluten-free meal was not on the plane. The staff were always apologetic, but helpless.

Returning recently from Darwin, the flight attendant suggested I could have the fish meal. What I received was a piece of cooked fish in a watery sauce, a small helping of unappetising vegetables and a cardboard box with a cupcake in it. I was then offered slices of bread from a small basket.

Is this really a business class lunch? Perhaps the Qantas catering department needs a new computer which Mr Joyce could spare a few dollars to fix.

Inge Gottfried, Doncaster East, VIC

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