Traveller letters: When it comes to service in economy, Qantas slays

SLAYING 'EM IN THE AISLES

I recently travelled to Norway with Finnair in economy class from Brisbane via Hong Kong which used Qantas for the first leg. Not being a Qantas customer so much as a Jetstar one, I wasn't thinking much about the service.

It turned out to be the best flight I've ever experienced. After a very impressive meal service, the staff kept pounding the beat (aisle) providing services.

On Finnair itself and Cathay Pacific for return Hong Kong to Brisbane, the staff literally disappeared after meal service, with Qantas trumping Cathay Pacific hands down.

Yvonne Jessup, Byron Bay, NSW

LETTER OF THE WEEK

SOUTHERN DISCOMFORTS

We have just returned from five great weeks in South America. The only three things to annoy us on the whole trip were of our own government's making.

Australian passport holders are the only ones who have to pay a $US117 reciprocity fee to enter Chile. Why? Because the Australian Government charges Chileans $140 for a visa. Many countries can apply online for an Australian tourist visa for free, so why not Chileans?

Next, why does the Federal Government still insist you cannot take any liquids onto flights to Australia? This includes duty-free alcohol and water purchased air-side.

Finally, arriving back in Australian after a long flight, you cannot use your e-passport if coming from South America, instead you have to go to the e-passport assistance desk to re-enter Australia.

They know a flight is coming in from South America so how many officers are allocated to process passports? You guessed it. Just one.

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Michael Barr, Brighton, VIC

SAFETY LAST

It is all too common these days to observe passengers who are completely oblivious to, or contemptuous of, safety directions.

Few actually ever pay attention to the pre-flight videos, lest they appear to be unseasoned travellers who haven't "heard it all before".

Other passengers, seeming to believe their personal indulgence is more important than everyone's safety, resist or ignore specific safety directions. I've seen people turn off their phone when asked, only to turn it back on when the flight attendant has moved on.

Understanding and observing airline safety rules is respecting your fellow travellers. It's also a sound investment in yourself.

In the unlikely event, as they say, you actually have to fit an oxygen mask or life jacket, or find the nearest exit in darkness, you might be grateful to have paid attention for once to that "boring safety video".

Ross Duncan, Potts Point, NSW

GATES OF HELL ONE

Reading the letter "Taxing Times" (Traveller Letters, May 11) brought back memories of a trip Paris last year, travelling with two senior friends.

We purchased two carnet – or "concession" – tickets for the Metro, thinking concession meant the same as back home and the ticket seller didn't tell us otherwise.

It was a big mistake. After we went through the gate we were greeted by five humourless officials who demanded we pay a fine for using concession tickets (which are for under-12s in France). We tried to explain we travelled on concessions back home, to no avail.

After much arguing I eventually produced my credit card and paid €75 in fines to avoid imminent arrest and gave the tickets away on the Metro to parents of under-12s as we couldn't get a refund.

Margaret McCann, Runaway Bay, QLD

GATES OF HELL TWO

I sympathise with Rob Vines and his frustration at copping fines while travelling for rules of which one is not aware. However, his assumption that "officials enforce rules that locals sometimes ignore with impunity" is incorrect.

Locals are treated equally. It is just that they are aware of long-standing rules, like validating a ticket before boarding a train.

Grazia McKinnon, Ivanhoe, VIC

HONESTY THE BEST POLICIES

Ducie Hood's letter (Traveller Letters, May 11) about the rejection of her travel insurance claim describes a situation experienced too often. We had a similar experience and subsequent research revealed that no website comparisons give you the information you really need.

A thorough analysis is needed which uncovers the key facts.

Does the company have a toll-free number you can contact them on from anywhere in the world?

How quickly and efficiently do they respond to you when you are overseas and needing their help?

How genuinely helpful and competent are the staff?

What percentage of claims are approved (research shows that in most cases this is less than 50 per cent)?

Can you get cover that doesn't involve paying an excess?

A policy may say you have unlimited coverage of medical expenses, but that does not guarantee you will get it when you claim.

Ducie's letter described a typical refusal of assistance which smacks of discrimination against older travellers. If assistance is rejected, the premium should be refunded.

An overhaul and examination of travel insurance is overdue. Many people now do not bother to take out travel insurance because of stories such as these.

Sue Lyons, North Carlton, VIC

NUTHIN BUT MUFFINS

Your recent cover story about food on airlines (Traveller, April 27) prompted me to finally write about my experiences as a coeliac who travels Qantas business class.

I find it so frustrating that when travelling in this class the food cannot be made more appealing.

On one recent flight I was served the same meal on two legs. And an apple or dried-up muffin for desert does not cut it. Coeliacs are lumped in with dairy intolerance and so there is never any cheese, real butter or milk.

This is particularly galling when my husband is sitting down to a meal which he has been able to select from a wide variety.

Qantas has really gone budget for dietary requirements and when paying for long-haul business class this is not acceptable.

Leni May, Kyneton, VIC

TAKING STOCKHOLM

Our recent flight from Oslo to Stockholm was cancelled owing to the SAS pilots' strike with SAS adding "we are working to book you on another flight".

Unfortunately, SAS never followed up and advised that there were no flights on the following three days.

As our SAS flight from Stockholm to Copenhagen was also affected, we flew Oslo to Copenhagen with another airline to connect with our return flight home.

We thought the "extenuating circumstances" clause would refund all or part of the $1118.06 paid (for our accommodation in Stockholm), but Airbnb customer service informed us that extenuating circumstances applied only to "severe weather, natural disasters and airport closure" and therefore we would not receive a refund.

Mal Owen, Berwick, VIC

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Letters may be edited for space, legal or other reasons. Preference will be given to letters of 50-100 words or less. Email us at travellerletters@fairfaxmedia.com.au and, importantly, include your name, address and phone number.

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