UPDATE: Since writing this article late last night I received a tweet from Qantas letting me know that they would give me a call.

Mark, who runs the Social Media team for Qantas Customer Care gave me a call a few minutes later and apologised for the cock up and took me through the reasons why it had happened without trying to make excuses.

The end result was that I have now had my Kindle replaced, but more importantly my issue was addressed and I felt like my voice was heard.

At all times throughout this, the social media team were responsive, but unfortunately it fell down outside of their area. Hopefully this will continue to improve as Mark’s team works closely and educates the rest of customer service area to give a consistent holistic approach across the organisation.

I commend Mark for the way he handled it and my wife wife and I will be happy continue to fly Qantas in the future. I only hope that this experience helps other people and helps Qantas improve the integration of Customer Service over multiple channels.

Qantas Fail

Source: theage.com.au

I recently had an extremely bad experience with Qantas that illustrates how quick social response is useless unless it’s backed up by the rest of the business. It’s a long story, but stay with me.

On the 7th May I was flying back from Melbourne to Sydney with my wife and 2.5 year old daughter, and had stowed my Kindle in the seat pocket ready to finish a book I was deeply engrossed in during the flight. All was good until I reach for the Qantas magazine and noticed that the bottom of it was all wet and the pages were stuck together. I had a look in the seat pocket and noticed that there was about a centimetre of a thick white liquid (probably baby formulae) in the seat pocket, and there was my kindle sitting in this liquid. I quickly pulled it out and cleaned it off as best as I could, but it was too late. This liquid had gotten into the usb port and the vents in the bottom and I couldn’t switch the kindle on.

I hit the button to call the flight attendant and explained the problem to them and the cabin manager came down and took me to the front of the plane while they cleaned out the seat. He was extremely apologetic and tried his best to clean the kindle and get it working, but to no avail.

He apologised again, gave me his details and the details for customer care and let me know he’d report it as soon as they landed. He said that customer care would call me, but if I didn’t hear from them to give them a call. He came back later in the flight to let me know that he’d reported it and they were going to change out the entire seat when they landed before the next flight.

At this stage whilst annoyed that my Kindle was broken I was pretty happy with service.

It all went downhill from there. Over the next 2 days I heard nothing from Qantas so I endeavoured to give them a call, but couldn’t find a phone number anywhere so had to resort to completing the online form, with the following

1oth May
Reference number: 120510-000181 
Region of Residence: Australia
State: NSW
Phone: {my mobile number here}
E-mail: {my email address here}
Frequent Flyer Number: xxxxx

Category: Your Experience With Qantas
Sub-Category: Inflight
I was on qantas flight QF446 from melbourne to sydney on the 7 May 2012 and placed my kindle touch model # D01200 in the seat pocket.
When I pulled it out to use it in flight I found that there was a thick liquid (possibly baby formulae) in the bottom of the seat pocket, which covered the bottom 1cm of the kindle.
The kindle couldn’t power on, and after cleaning it and trying to make it work including trying to reset it, it still doesn’t work.
I reported it to the Customer service manager on the flight – Matthew Carlton-Doney who organised to get the seat cleaned out and said he’d report it.
Can you please contact me as soon as possible to organise a replacement kindle for the one that was destroyed.
Matt Freedman
{my email address here}
{my mobile phone number here}

I promptly got the reply the next day and this is where it started to go downhill.

Ref No: DM/93693772
Dear Mr Freedman
Thank you for getting in touch with us and I’d like to let you know we appreciate how frustrating this must have been.
Unfortunately, under our Conditions of Carriage, we don’t accept liability for costs or losses that result from items that are in your possession on board.
I apologise again for the difficulties and inconvenience this meant for you.
However, if you would like to make a claim on your personal travel insurance, I would be happy to send you a written note about what happened.
Please let me know and I will do everything I can to assist you.
We appreciate your efforts to bring this matter to our attention. I apologise if I have not been able to resolve this matter to your satisfaction and I hope we have an opportunity to welcome you aboard Qantas in the near future.
Yours sincerely
Customer Care Executive

I replied on the 14th May with

Hi Daniel,
The seat pocket was filled with a thick liquid substance and was in a disgusting state and had obviously not been checked or cleaned between flights. The customer service manager advised that they would be getting the seat changed completely in Sydney before the next flight, which gives you an indication of the extent of the mess. This goes well beyond wear and tear or accidental damage of personal objects on board a flight. The failure to adequately provide a clean environment led to the destruction of my kindle, and i’m sure that you would agree that is not what you would expect from a premium carrier like Qantas.
I was travelling with my wife, who is a gold frequent flyer and flys internationally with Qantas monthly. Her and I were both shocked and disappointed by this response which we would expect from a discount carrier not Qantas. She currently makes a conscience decision to fly Qantas, when it is actually easier for her to fly Emirates.Can you please let me know how you are going replace my kindle, I would love to be able to share a positive qantasstory with my facebook and twitter followers and peers in the social media industry, rather than a negative one.
Matt Freedman
{mobile phone number here}

and then waited for 6 days with no reply…….

I then shared my frustration on twitter on the 20 May with

Matt Freedman @qantasairways can’t believe your customer service sux so bad. First you destroy my kindle then tell me too bad so sad. #qantasfail


they replied the next day with

Qantas Airways@matt_freedman Hi Matt, could you please fill out this form and our Customer Care team will be in touch http://bit.ly/nbgBBT


to which I replied on the same day

Matt Freedman@QantasAirways that’s the form I filled out last time. Reference DM/93693772. I replied to your response 8 days ago and you’ve ignored me.


To which I got the following email which totally astounded me.

Dear Mr Freedman,
Thank you for taking the time to contact us via Facebook.
We did not receive your response to Daniel’s email to you on the 11th of May.
Can you please forward your response to this email address so we can action this.
Kind Regards

Well firstly Bianca I contacted you on Twitter, not Facebook (doesn’t Radian6 tell you that) and secondly I know emails do go astray, but seriously I just replied to the message you sent me, so I emailed my reply again to Bianca on the 22 May and now 12 days have gone past without any satisifaction or any confidence that Qantas Customer Care does actually care about the customer.

2 Days later Daniel is back to assure me that all is good.

Dear Mr Freedman
Please be assured we are listening. I am currently waiting for the report to come back to me and will be in contact shortly.
Customer Care Executive

So again I await Qantas to let me know how they are going to resolve my broken Kindle. I hear nothing so resort back to social media where at least they reply to me.

Matt Freedman

Still waiting….“@QantasAirways@matt_freedman Hi Matt,we have raised this with @QFcustomercare who will be in touch shortly.”


To which they replied

Qantas Customer Care@matt_freedman Due to the nature of your issues, Customer Care are investigating the circumstances. They will be in touch by week’s end.


So guess what…..the weeks end comes and goes. So on the 3oth May (20 days since I first lodged the issue), I tweet again..

Matt Freedmanstill waiting!!! A phone call would be nice. “@QFcustomercare: … Customer Care will be in touch by week’s end.”


Once again the social media team replied immediately despite getting no correspondance from Qantas Customer Care with

Qantas Customer Care@matt_freedman Hi, our team are currently investigating your file and will be in touch as soon as they have a response. Sorry for the delay.


And finally on the 31 May (21 days later), good old Daniel comes emails me with

Ref No: DM/93699741
Dear Mr Freedman
Thank you for your further contact.
I am sorry that you are still unhappy with our explanation / response to the issues you raised.
Regrettably, I cannot meet your request as per the Conditions Of Carriage. However, I am able to further assist you with a letter for travel insurance as per the below.
I appreciate you taking the time to pursue this issue and I apologise if I have not been able to resolve this matter to your satisfaction.
Insurance letter (if requested):
Thank you for contacting us.
I can confirm that Mr Freedman has reported that damage has been sustained to his Kindle Touch Model # D01200 whilst placed in the seat pocket. The item was reported as being damaged onboard QF446 on 7th May 2012.
Unfortunately we are unable to offer you any compensation on this occasion.
This information is supplied in order to assist you to make a claim with your insurance company. It should not be considered as an admission of liability by Qantas Airways to you or any person acting on your behalf.
Yours sincerely
Customer Care Executive

Well I’m afraid Daniel that you apologies don’t quite cut it, and my final reply over Twitter was

Matt Freedman@QFcustomercare after 2 weeks of “investigation” you copy and paste original prewritten reply. Unbelievable. I’ll copy you on my blogpost.


So what have we learned from all of this

  1. Qantas uses Radian6 effectively to respond to tweets quickly but has no flow through to the actually customer service department. (i.e. left hand and right hand, not working together) which begs the question of why bother with social media at all.
  2. I put my mobile number on the initial correspondance and each email that I sent. Why didn’t your ring me? One phone call would have saved multiple emails and tweets and wouldn’t have aired your dirty laundry to the public.
  3. The kindle in questions is $139, and I’m sure it’s cost them more than this to handle the complaint.
    • I’ve got 2 more Qantas flights booked that I can’t get out of, but after that I won’t fly Qantas again.
    • My wife has been flying Qantas to New Zealand weekly for the last 3 months and is flying business class to the US in June. She has just booked her next flight to New Zealand with Air New Zealand and with Emirate for the one after that.
    • Do the math. $139 in compensation vs an international flight every week

Is a lousy $139 kindle worth the cost of the bad publicity and the loss of international flights just because of a policy that poor Daniel isn’t empowered to go against. I’m a reasonable person and if I had of dropped or broken the Kindle during the flight I’d have accepted it was my fault, but to have it broken because a seat pocket that I’d expect to be clean was filled with baby formulae, is beyond reason. Companies like Apple and Amex empower their customer service staff to make these decisions because they know that the value of good customer service goes well beyond a couple of hundred bucks.

Clearly Qantas is well behind the curve and destined to head the way of many of the American airlines that are struggling just to survive.

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2 Responses to Qantas Customer Service and Social Media Fail

  1. business analysis says:

    Wonderful page indeed! I am really glad that you shared such smartly written article. Thanks!

  2. Anyone BUT qantas says:

    My daughter was studying in Adelaide, and was accepted in a course in the UK as part of her studies, for one year. While booking her tickets through the University travel agency, she was advised it would be cheaper to book her return tickets at the same time. After Advising that she didnt know the exact dates of her return, she was told it would be no problem, she need simply cancel the return ticket and book it for a later date.

    After finding out the date of her final exams, she went to rebook her ticket, only to be told that she couldnt do that, as the date she wanted, was one week after, the calendar year of her first booking. So, she could have rebooked, and missed her exams, or completed the exams, forfeit the original return ticket, and buy another.

    The travel agent and Qantas would not budge. As the travel agency was university based, surely, if that is the advice they are going to offer, they should also make sure that people know of the strict one calendar year limit.

    Id have happily paid some sort of extra booking fee, if necessary, but to forfeit the entire ticket for the sake of one week, shame on them. No idea of fair go. I took my entire Family to the UK, and we ended up buying another ticket for my daughter to get home. None of that travel was via qantas, and we had a very good experience.
    My new motto. Anyone BUT qantas.

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