Reader Question: Qantas Involuntary Downgrade From Business To Economy On BA Issued Award?

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A LoyaltyLobby reader sent us a question about involuntary downgrade from business to economy on Qantas domestic flight from Sydney to Perth (BA issued award).

Reader Question Qantas Downgrade Compensation

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Here’s email from the reader:

I’m a regular traveler who has the good fortune to accumulate tons of miles. Based in South Africa we travel a lot. Most of my miles are BA Avios.

Reader Question Qantas Downgrade Compensation BA Eticket

Earlier today, my elderly mother, flew the return portion of a QF flight from Syd to Per. Being a 5 hour flight and knowing her next (SAA) flight from PER to JNB was long, I booked all her tickets Biz class (which were a mission to get!)

She texted me from Syd that they didn’t even tell her she was being downgraded and only discovered this when she was denied access to the Biz class lounge. They refused to help her further (they did allow her access to the lounge, finally!).

Clearly she was not notified of the downgrade and then not offered an alternative once she discovered their deception!

Please let me know who (at QF or BA)to approach or if you have capacity and the will to help, I’d appreciate it.

Here’s what Qantas’ Conditions of Carriage say:

If we need to ask you to downgrade for any reason, we will at your option:

  • provide you with an appropriate refund of the difference in fares (or an appropriate credit of Qantas Points in the event that you are travelling on a Qantas Frequent Flyer Award), or
  • accommodate you on a reasonable alternative available flight on our services.

The wording that Qantas used on their conditions of carriage is very lax and they only promise to credit back the fare difference that sometimes can be big flat zero on complicated itineraries. They don’t even seek for volunteers to take the downgrade for cash, credits or another flight.

Perhaps readers from Australia could chime in and let us know if there is consumer protection that would entail compensation (penalty) in case of downgrades such as this? Theoretically, Qantas could keep selling business class and just keep downgrading passengers that have paid less or flying on award tickets.

Conclusion

Airlines often downgrade passengers that fly on award tickets because it is basically very cheap for them. The ticketing airline just refunds the mileage difference and/or they may throw some extra miles for the inconvenience.

They also often prey on younger, older or infrequent travelers that don’t know what they are entitled to.

I wish that more countries would have legislations in place such as the EC 261/2004 that would set stiff penalties for the airlines to downgrade passengers, delay and cancel their flights.

Consumer protection is strong in Australia but how does it work when it comes to aviation?

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