How about a refund for these downgraded seats, Qantas?


Stan Shopa is disappointed to miss his Qantas connection from Los Angeles to Melbourne. The airline rebooks him on a flight the next day. Unfortunately, he soon discovers that he and his wife will be sitting in downgraded seats for the 17-hour flight. Shouldn’t he be entitled to a price adjustment?


My wife and I were flying to Australia. We flew from Tucson to LAX to catch our connecting flight on Qantas. Because of inclement weather, our plane from Tucson was delayed. We arrived at LAX shortly after our Qantas flight had left. To make a long story short, we were booked for the same flight to Melbourne the next day. Qantas assigned us to economy seating because no seats were available in the premium economy.

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During our stay in Australia, we lost our boarding passes for the flight to Australia listing our downgraded seating assignments. When we inquired about a refund, we were told that we had to have “indisputable” proof of our downgraded seats.

I received a very nice, sympathetic response from our travel agency, Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT). The representative told me that we did not have sufficient documents to prove our downgrade. So I write to you now to determine whether you can help us to receive a refund. Is there any way to prove that we flew in downgraded seats? Stan Shopa, Wolcottville, Ind.


When you missed your flight to Australia, it was a reasonable expectation to be accommodated on the next available flight on Qantas. Unfortunately, that next available flight did not have your reserved cabin seating available. To begin your vacation as soon as possible, you accepted a voluntary downgrade from premium economy to standard economy.

It would have been prudent to straighten out the fare difference and refund eligibility before taking your flight. But since you didn’t, the next best thing would have been to have kept your boarding passes to document your downgraded seats.

Proof of downgraded seats?

You belatedly realized that you would need some documentation to prove your downgraded seats to your travel agency. But by that time, you had already lost your boarding passes.

When I reviewed your paperwork, I noted that in her response to you, your travel agent told you that the finance department of OAT required tangible proof of your change in seating assignments. There was a reason for this requirement.

“Unfortunately in the past people have claimed to have been downgraded when they have not,” she told you. “The finance department has these requirements as a result of those people’s actions.”

This situation was especially frustrating for you because OAT had already refunded your traveling companions who had also been downgraded on the same flight. Fortunately for them, they had retained their boarding passes — an action that saved them a $2,200 headache.

Downgrade refunds

When I researched the refund guidance that Qantas gives on their Industry sales site for North America, it did seem that OAT was following protocol. In the section entitled “Downgrade refunds,” Qantas clarifies what is needed to qualify for a refund:

If your customer was issued with a downgrade slip for a voluntarily or involuntary downgrade, to request a refund, forward the following to Qantas Refunds: letter of explanation, copy of the ticket & original boarding pass.

Unfortunately, you didn’t have these documents and so your travel agent asked you to wait for their investigation to be complete. She told you that process could take up to six months.

This didn’t seem like the most expeditious route to take.

I thought that Qantas seemed like the most direct path to a refund. I surmised that they would have documentation of your seating assignment on your flight to Australia.

The good news

I contacted Qantas on your behalf. It did, in fact, confirm that you had flown in downgraded seats on your journey to Australia. The airline has issued a $2,200 refund for you and your wife.

You are pleased with this outcome.

When you miss a flight and are offered a seat in a lower class than you are confirmed, make sure to settle all the refund formalities before you take off. If that isn’t possible, it is imperative to safely keep all your documents until your refund is confirmed. Follow these steps and you can avoid this type of travel misadventure.

34 thoughts on “How about a refund for these downgraded seats, Qantas?

  1. Good job. But why wouldn’t the airline have an electronic record of where the passenger sat? This seems like a situation that should be automatic, not requiring any intervention.

    1. Of course Qantas kept a record of the original seating assignment. They were just hoping the passenger didn’t

      1. I believe that it was the Travel Agency [OAT] that was insisting on the PAX providing that boarding pass for proof, not Qantas. From what can be ascertained in the article, neither the travel agent nor the PAX ever contacted Qantas for help because of the lost boarding pass. It was this sites advocates that thought to and then contacted Qantas, who it seems had no trouble in a timely manner providing the needed documentation so the PAX could collect what was due them. Hardly an indictment of the airline. If anything OAT should be the target of any outrage.

          1. they are a VERY reputable company – and they are required to still follow rules before expecting an airlines to give THEM anything to pass thru to the client – they are a company, not an ATM

        1. OAT was following the travel agency Policies & Procedures (quoted in the article) which are published by….. Qantas.
          If OAT doesn’t follow those terms and conditions and tries to process a refund without sending the “original boarding pass” or “downgrade slip” then Qantas’s policies entitle it to charge the agency a debit memo.

          1. exactly – our hands are tied by the airlines in situations like this (all ticketing agents do, or those debit memos are outrageous!)

          2. I agree 100% with what you said, so why would indicting Qantas for failing to do anything, as the poster I was responding to in this thread did be the position to take? One should expect that if the customer of OAT, the travel agent involved, couldnt produce the proof required, that OAT might lift a small finger to aid their customer in securing the info needed to produce the desired refund. From the article, once the “advocates” [not OAT or the PAX] made the request of Qantas to help, Qantas did exactly that pn what seems like a timely basis. Seems blaming Qantas and saying that Qantas hoped the passenger wouldnt find out about the fact that Qantas could give them the info needed is quite a stretch from what is stated in the article. Plenty of things to blame poor airline customer service on, in this instance whatever “failures” occurred, belonged to OAT for not helping their customer, or at least suggesting to their customer to contact Qantas, or to the PAX for not contacting Qantas for help [although I vote for OAT to bear the burden, they are in the business of making money on the backs of their customers.

          3. As far as we know from the article, it appears that OAT did at least lift a finger — they got Qantas to open an “investigation” which the travel agency relayed to the customer “could take up to six months.”

            The travel agency probably works with a Qantas agency / customer service representative. advocates usually work with an Executive Contact. It’s not entirely surprising if different parties contacting different employees from different parts of Qantas’ org chart would get different results.

        2. They would need to give this to the airline, as they have no other option in this matter — but they can request a research, it just sounds like he did not want to wait

          1. “Unfortunately, you didn’t have these documents and so your travel agent asked you to wait for their investigation to be complete, which could take up to six months.”, you make this point accurately, however, if OAT had chosen to actually try to help this PAX, they could have, or rather should have done exactly what the “advocates” did. Contact Qantas on behalf of their customer to try to obtain the needed documentation and avoid the 6 month research wait. OAT for whatever reason chose to not do anything more than sit on their hands and let their customer swing in the wind.

        3. OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) is not a travel agency; it’s a tour operator that includes flights with some of its tours. In most cases, the client has to pay an upgrade fee to get better seating in either premium economy or business.

      2. read the comment above – manifests are NOT in the standard system, nor are they keeping this money if you want to wait for them to research it – he just wanted it NOW

      3. some airlines would simply say, you missed your flight, not our problem, buy 2 more tickets at last minute prices. It happens. Next time, allow more time for your connections, especially at one of the worlds worst airports.

    2. Yea, seems like an opportunity her to place a call to QF customer service: “I see a charge for a flight in premium economy on your airline, but my memory is so bad, I just don’t remember taking it. Before I report it as a fraudulent charge, can you see if I was actually on that flight?”

    3. One should also ensure that the airline agent puts a notation that their seats were downgraded in their PNR so that there is a readily available record to review, should the need arise. And, one should do his/her best not to lose boarding passes they may need in the future to prove their story.

    4. because the manifest takes time to physically scan – which is why they claim can take up to 6 months to research — so having the actual documents in hand helps eliminate the research necessary, getting you money quicker

        1. There’s getting all the documents, getting them sent to the correct internal channels, going through the process, etc. times X amount of flights per day, etc. It’s not as though they are at the gate, send it through a scanner and it magically pre populates in the correct format and program into the system automatically.

  2. Good job fixing it, but perhaps the FAA should review Qantas’ rights to fly into the USA, since apparently their IT system is not keeping records which would have facilitated this information. To depend upon a boarding pass to prove that a certain ticket was purchases is ridiculous beyond belief in this day and age.

    1. I believe that it was the Travel Agency [OAT] that was insisting on the PAX providing that boarding pass for proof, not Qantas. From what can be ascertained in the article, neither the travel agent nor the PAX ever contacted Qantas for help because of the lost boarding pass. It was this sites advocates that thought to and then contacted Qantas, who it seems had no trouble in timely providing the needed documentation so the PAX could collect what was due them.

      1. Yes, they were misinformed by OAT. Of course Qantas has a record of their boarding passes, and the agent at OAT should have known that. Even I know that, and I’m not a travel agent!

        1. AGAIN – if you want an INSTANT refund – you provide documents. You lose them, it takes up to 6 months – QANTAS makes the rules – not the ticket agent. HE chose to ask for an instant refund, even tho he tossed his docs

      2. they would need those to FORWARD to Qantas – or wait up to 6 months for Qantas to research the manifest records – he didn’t want to wait

        1. And OAT did not want to help. That is the point, OAT [the commission earning travel agency] could have done just as our unpaid advocates did, Contact Qantas to try to help the PAX obtain the needed documentation and expedite the processing from 6 months to whatever the normal processing cycle might be. What did the PAX use a travel agent for? One of the things might be because the travel agent would be more knowledgeable about how to fix problems than your average Joe is. Based on what I read, our unpaid advocates and Qantas did more to help this PAX obtain his refund than anything OAT did.

          1. they did – thy opened the investigation with Qantas, which could take up to 6 months — KEP YOUR RECEIPTS/DOCS!!

    2. “I contacted Qantas on your behalf, and they did, in fact, confirm that you had accepted a downgrade to economy in order to get to Australia as soon as possible. They then issued a $2,200 refund for you and your wife.”
      How would it have confirmed this had it not had a record?

      1. they do – but he wanted it now – normally you put in a request, and it can take up to 6 months (frankly have not seen it take that long if you request quickly)

    3. as their website says, it CAN do a research of the manifest records, but can take up to 6 months – he just wanted it NOW, regardless of the fact he tossed his receipts

  3. I find the travel agency’s response ridiculous. If the advocates at this website can contact Quantas, confirm the information, and request a refund be processed, why exactly can’t the agent at Overseas Adventure Travel do the same? Especially considering he must have booked a relatively expensive trip with them, considering the refund just for one downgraded leg is $2200. What is the point of using an agent for $20-40k travel purchase if they aren’t able to make a few phone calls and resolve an issue like this? For that amount of money, I’d expect that level of service. The OP had to contact a consumer advocate to do the legwork for free, while OAT is sitting on a hefty commission. That’s unacceptable.

    1. they probably filed a request, but as Qantas clearly states, it can take up to 6 months – for THEM to process the refund, they have to turn in the actual proof – OAT actually did its job — he has to learn patience, or to keep his documents, as his friends did

      1. That makes sense, thank you. I was confused about why they wouldn’t call. But it makes sense that they did and that part wasn’t communicated clearly.

  4. Excellent work, Michelle. One thing I’ve learned about airlines … if you don’t have proof of your contention, you’re out of luck. So glad you could get justice for this guy.

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