A Qantas goodwill gesture is welcome relief to this family

Jacob Schwartz is excited to take his family to Australia, but his son requires emergency surgery, and they have to postpone their trip. Can he persuade Qantas Airways to forego collecting change fees so the Schwartzes can reschedule their trip Down Under?

Question

I booked a trip for my family to travel from Kansas City to New York, to Sydney, and then back to KC. Unfortunately, a few days before we were scheduled to depart, my five-year-old son took ill and required emergency bowel surgery. He should be fine to travel by the end of the week, and we’d like to still use part of this trip. We can do this if we skip the New York segment. We’d be happy to organize our own way to the Los Angeles layover point to make this work.

Sadly, Qantas isn’t showing any compassion — they want us to pay large change fees and the last-minute price of repurchasing the same tickets, which is massive. All that we are asking is to remove a segment (NY to LA), not add or change any segments. But their customer service team seems to be following a script.

If you can help, you’d be our heroes! — Jacob Schwartz, Kansas City, Mo.

Answer

I’m glad your son is doing better and that you still have an opportunity to visit Australian. What a big thrill that must be for your family, and what a big disappointment with the treatment Qantas is giving you.

You indicated that you booked your trip via a travel agent. I wish the agent could have helped you advocate your case. Instead, you were forced to do this on your own. Part of a travel agent’s responsibility is to represent you in case your trip doesn’t go as planned.

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You said you became frustrated with what you indicated was a “script” that the Qantas’ representatives were using in denying your request. You simply needed to eliminate one segment of your itinerary and avoid paying an exorbitant change fee.

With your requests to Qantas going nowhere, you contacted our advocacy team.

Our advocate asks some hard questions

First, our advocate, Michelle Couch-Friedman, asked if you had purchased travel insurance. A policy might have protected you in this situation by allowing you more flexibility. Because your son, one of the travelers in your party, became ill, you might have had those change fees covered by insurance. Unfortunately, you said you were “kicking yourself” because you had not purchased travel insurance.

She also suggested you check the policies of the credit card company you used to pay for the trip. However, the trip was a very generous gift from your parents, and you weren’t sure which card they used.

You were fortunate, however, that the other vendors in the New York portion of the trip all allowed you to modify your plans while waiving the usual change fees. You only wished that Qantas would do the same.

Will Qantas make an exception?

The big problem, Friedman explained to you, is that these companies receive many requests just like yours every day — and not all of them are legitimate. And so, for the most part, the airlines reject these requests.

Friedman suggested that you write to Qantas via our executive contacts, which we list on our website. She recommended that you should write a short, polite email to the first executive on the list and point out that you know you are asking for a compassionate consideration and that you understand that the airline is under no obligation to waive your fees, but…

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An unexpected Qantas goodwill gesture

We were happy to hear an update from you:

I emailed Stephen Thompson, from your list of contacts,” you told us. “His assistant replied that they would be happy to waive change fees and adjust the flights for us. We will need to figure out our Kansas City to Los Angeles travel (Qantas doesn’t cover that route) but this was a wonderfully nice move from Qantas.

Also, we looked into the credit card situation and we ‘believe’ that change costs would be covered. So potentially Qantas’ help was not required. But the help from Qantas saves us from a lot of detailed insurance documentation and reimbursement issues, not to mention any risk that the insurance doesn’t cover us the way that we think it does. Qantas has made an advocate out of me.

Thank you so much for your guidance!

We’re thrilled with Qantas’ goodwill gesture outcome and hope you have a wonderful time in the “Land Down Under.”

Should Qantas have allowed Schwartz to make changes without any fees?

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Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined. Read more of Mark's articles here.

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