Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shunted QANTAS Style

It was pretty annoying (now that's an understatement) to realise that of the flights that left Singapore on Sunday evening ours was the only one that diverted (the Jetstar direct flight was delayed by 8 hours, but I couldn't think of a better airport to be stranded at than Changi). On one hand the three Qantas staff that were on hand to organise 400 odd passengers from our Airbus A380 did a great job. However I have no sympathy for Qantas management and in particular CEO Alan Joyce.

While I had read about the problems with the ash on the internet, we didn't find out that Qantas had cancelled all flights into Melbourne until we approached the check in desk at Changi airport. We were informed that we would now be going to Sydney. Well at least we were going to Australia. In hindsight, a few extra days in Singapore would have been nice too, although we had already extended our trip. That is why we were now returning on Qantas after leaving Australia on Singapore Airlines.

We landed at about 6:40 am and we were actually dealt with fairly quickly and efficently, at most it took 20 minutes from stepping off the aircraft to get through customs, this included a bus ride from our remote stand to the terminal. Once inside the terminal the three staff members dealt with the crowd efficiently, taking down details and handing out hotel and bus stop details. Immigration was again very quick. Our bags were already on the conveyor and we got to go through the green customs lane with nothing to declare.

Eventually after nearly a two hour wait in the cold we got on a coach and and drove to our hotel. The hotel was the Four Point's Sheraton on the Darling Harbour side of the Sydney CBD. By the time we were nearing the check in desk for the hotel the manager informed us that Qantas had sent too many people and that there were no more rooms available. To his credit he arranged a coach to take all 30 or so remaining passengers to a sister property and full use of the breakfast buffet which they kept open for us while we waited. By now it was about 11:30 am.

After around an hour we were taken to our new hotel, the Sheraton on the Park, overlooking of course Hyde Park in Elizabeth Street. This was clearly a much higher class hotel. After checking in we had to wait about 2 hours until the rooms were ready. So we eventually made it to a hotel room at about 3pm, about 8 hours after landing.

And what a hotel room it was, the best of the whole trip. The best bit was that it actually had a view of the park!

I should add that the last we heard from Qantas was two of those same staff members telling us which coach was going to which hotel at the Sydney Airport coach stops. It was very much a case just getting us out of the way. From then we heard nothing, and if I hadn't done what I'm about to tell you about, I fear we would still be there. I tried calling Qantas that night and the next morning on their regular phone number 131313, but it was so busy it played a message and hung up on me.

Rather stupidly I had left my phone on the plane, which was latter found by a cleaner and handed to the Qantas found property office. Luckily my brother was trying to get in contact and someone in the baggage services office heard it and answered. When talking to my brother that night he gave me the details I needed to pick it up the next morning.

So the next morning I left Mum at the hotel and caught the train to the airport to pick it up.

After retrieving my phone from the baggage services office on the arrivals level I ventured upstairs in search of someone I could talk to about the situation. In the end I found the Qantas sales desk and managed to get us on to a flight latter Tuesday afternoon. It seemed effortless.

So it was back to the hotel to pack up get mum and head back to the Qantas domestic terminal. I hate to think what the others did, although we met one woman who was on our flight in the hotel lobby and I told her what I'd done. I think the best bet for her was to find a Qantas sales office in the Sydney CBD and organise the flights in person.

We left straight away for our 5:15pm flight, arriving at the airport about 2 hours early, as I thought the place would be chaotic . I was wrong, the place was deserted.

Check in was a pain though as we couldn't use the self serve kiosk and the old style check in desks are gone. Now you print your own baggage tags and put your luggage on the conveyor yourself. We did find a staff member to help and she managed to get the system to work. Apparently it was something to do with the way our onward flight was booked. While she was great and helped us out, once again we feel Qantas as a company let us down.

Once through security we could relax, had a bite to eat and went and had a look around the Qantas Heritage Collection (which I do recommend going to have a look at if you ever have time to fill in Sydney T3) before going to wait at the gate for our flight.

We were back on the ground in Melbourne about a day and a half late.


Andrew said...

If I didn't have to be somewhere, I would be quite happy to stay at that hotel in Sydney indefinitely at Qantas' expense. While I am quite happy to use an automated check in system, I have never actually found one that works without some problem that needs help from staff.

Adaptive Radiation said...

Hmmm...I hope this doesn't happen to me on my way back from Europe later this week.

Ben said...

Andrew, I would have loved to have stayed longer at Qantas' expense. In retrospect I really should have played dumb and just gone with it for as long as Qantas were willing to pay.

AR, word is the volcano has been active again and they are expecting more ash. Apparently South Africa copped it over the weekend. Definitely an idea to check your airlines web page to see what's happening.