Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Public pressure forces some decency out of offensive QANTAS subsidiary

Too bad if you can't get a major newspaper to give big publicity to your complaint, though

Jetstar has suspended a gate attendant who allegedly abused a female passenger and had her thrown off a flight and apologised for the airline's "unacceptable" response to the woman's complaint.

Mesha Sendyk was removed from a Sydney to Gold Coast flight earlier this month for allegedly shouting at a gate attendant and getting on the plane without a boarding pass. Ms Sendyk, 42, complained to the airline, alleging she was abused by the staff member in front of her six-year-old daughter and had her boarding pass snatched away during a highly-charged exchange with the man.

The airline's customer care manager responded to Ms Sendyk's complaint with an offer to refund her airfare, an accusation she behaved in an "unruly, disruptive or violent" manner and a threat to ban the Byron Bay-based artist from all Jetstar services in future.

But two days after the incident came to light, a senior airline executive phoned Ms Sendyk to tell her the gate attendant had been stood down. "[Jetstar group general manager commercial David Koczka] apologised repeatedly about [the attendant's] behaviour and [customer care manager] Michael Mirabito's letter," Ms Sendyk said. "He said 'I think what happened was terrible for you and then when we responded to your attempt to reconcile, the response we gave was just unacceptable'."

A Jetstar spokesman confirmed the gate attendant had been suspended pending an internal investigation into the incident. "Senior management have taken this matter seriously," the spokesman said. [About time] "We've spoken directly to the customer and apologised for the incident that happened at the gate." "We have very good customer service, we've got very strong passenger growth - we're the fastest growing airline in the region. "We stand by the fact we're an organisation that's proactive and takes these things seriously." [Really?? Not much sign of it]

Ms Sendyk said she was tremendously hurt by the airline's initial response to her written complaint, as well as further accusations, levelled through the media, that she was at fault. "I can't say I'm happy with the whole thing but I think their assurance that he's no longer going to be in a position where he can victimise members of the public is good," she said. "It hasn't been pleasant but I'm happy with the response.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

QANTAS again -- woman badly mistreated and QANTAS doesn't care

Jetstar is the QANTAS budget subsidiary. And they're animals. The lady below should sue the b*stards

NSW artist, psychologist and mother Mesha Sendyk covered both ends of the emotional spectrum the day she decided to see the Dalai Lama, then try to fly home on Jetstar. Meditation was the last thing on her mind when she says she was angrily challenged over her carry-on bag by a male attendant at the gate. Now she has lodged a complaint with the airline and called for the attendant to be sacked. But the airline is standing by its man.

Ms Sendyk, 42, of Byron Bay, was with her husband and six-year-old daughter when the clash happened at Sydney Airport two weeks ago as they tried to get on the Gold Coast flight. “All of a sudden I heard this yelling match,” said another passenger in the line. “Then I heard a woman's voice say: 'Don't you dare touch me, take your hands off me.'"

The airline alleges Ms Sendyk got on the flight without a boarding pass and shouted at gate staff and flight attendants.

The stand-off began when the male gate attendant allegedly challenged Ms Sendyk over the size of her carry-on bag. The bag fitted the frame and Ms Sendyk was told "you can get on board" but when she remarked on the attendant's alleged “rudeness”, she said he got angry. “He then roared, using the tone of an incensed school madam: 'That's it! Your bag is going under the plane and if I hear another word you won't be flying at all,'” Ms Sendyk recalled him saying in a three-page account of her experience. “I said only, 'You need to stop being rude to me.'"

She said the attendant replied: "I can do anything I want," before allegedly snatching Ms Sendyk's boarding pass and circling the cabin baggage rules. “Look here … it says so here in your contract … I control who and what goes onto this plane."

Ms Sendyk, conscious that her daughter was becoming upset by the exchange and worried it could trigger her asthma, said she tried to move her family through the gate. Ms Sendyk said that when her husband, Xavier Bouquillard, asked the attendant for his name, the man said it repeatedly and spelled it out before saying: “You're not going anywhere.”

Ms Sendyk said she swore at the attendant and tried to move her family through. “I'd just spent three days with the Dalai Lama and just looked at him really dismissively and said 'f--- off' and we kept going,” she said. Ms Sendyk said the attendant cried out to stop her before rushing forward and putting himself between her family and the gate. “[He] rushed to the doorway pushing me with his large belly and manhandling me with his body to hit the doorframe, raising his hands and shrieking: 'Stop her, stop her!'” she said.

Ms Sendyk said she managed to manoeuvre her way through the gate and, after explaining the gate attendant had her boarding pass, was allowed by a flight attendant to take her seat in row four of the aircraft. Mr Bouqillard and the couple's daughter were seated together further towards the back. Ms Sendyk said she sat there for a few minutes before the same flight attendant came to her and told her she was being “deboarded and must get off the plane”. She tried to reason with the flight staff but was told there was nothing they could do. She said she was allowed back on the aircraft once to collect her bag and ask the other passengers if they would be willing to provide witness statements.

Australian Federal Police officers who were called to the gate advised Ms Sendyk to take notes on the incident as soon as possible. She was eventually forced to pay $349 for a Virgin Blue flight to the Gold Coast later that night. Ms Sendyk's recollections are supported by at least three passengers, one of whom heard the boarding gate exchange.

The Brighton Le Sands woman, 50, who asked not to be named, said everyone in line turned around to look. “All of a sudden I heard this yelling match,” the woman said. “Then I heard a woman's voice say: 'Don't you dare touch me, take your hands off me.' “Then she was standing behind me really furious, saying 'I'm going to make a complaint about that man.'”

The incident was handled “appallingly” by the airline, the woman said. “I actually got up from my seat and said 'just let the lady on board, she has her child on board and her husband'. She was not a threat to the plane,” she said. “Then [Ms Sendyk's daughter] started crying and the lady next to me started crying, that's how distressing it was. “It was just totally blown out of proportion.”

Jetstar offered to refund Ms Sendyk's airfare but refused to reimburse her for the Virgin Blue flight. And in response to Ms Sendyk's three-page complaint, Jetstar's customer care manager Michael Mirabito threatened her with a total ban from the airline's services. “In the event of any further reports of unruly, intimidating or violent behaviour by yourself, Jetstar will exercise its right to refuse you carriage on all of its services,” Mr Mirabito said in a letter, dated December 8.

An airline spokesman yesterday said the gate attendant was a “highly-valued” and “long-serving” member of staff. The airline had employee reports that indicated crew were not comfortable with Ms Sendyk travelling on the flight, a spokeswoman said.

The same member of staff had a complaint against him posted on an online complaints forum earlier this year. "Wanted to find out at booking desk if we could upgrade to business [star class] on the return flight from Thailand using frequent flyers points," the passenger wrote. "Was told by [staff member] at desk that there was no possibility as frequent flyer members were the 'lowest of the low'. "He was extremely rude and condescending, it was very tempting to jump the desk and have a quiet word with him, but I wanted to get to Thailand." The passenger said he was told frequent flyer members were "the lowest of the low" a second time, by the same attendant, six months later before a flight to Bali. "The arrogance of the male person ... astounded me, and as an employer of over 20 staff I would have had him fired on the spot; surely this could not have been the first complaint against him," he said.

Two other passengers on Ms Sendyk's flight, who were seated next to her but did not know her, disputed Jetstar's claim she was shouting and using inappropriate language on board. “[Ms Sendyk] was a bit tired and upset but she wasn't loud or obnoxious, or annoying anybody,” one passenger, Diane Harris, said. “When she addressed the plane she was just pointing out that she was being thrown off the plane for whatever kind of behaviour and she thought it was unacceptable when the guy at the gate had been rude to her and now she was being pulled off for being 'obnoxious'.”

Ms Harris, who has been taking the same flight almost every week for three years, said the airline's treatment of Ms Sendyk was “dreadful”. “We were on the [same] flight last Thursday,” she said. “They have drunken yahoos in there on the way to the Gold Coast for a bucks' night or what have you and there's not a word of admonition to them and yet they throw off some poor woman with a family who's not being loud or obnoxious at all,” Ms Harris said.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Three current reports below on Australia's own third-world airline

QANTAS strands blind woman -- illegally

"Australia's national airline" refused guide dog and stranded blind woman. A mainstream carrier that is as ignorant -- and as ignorant of the law -- as an El Cheapo airline

QANTAS left a blind woman distressed and stranded interstate at night because the airline would not allow her guide dog on a flight. Qantas is not alone. Tiger Airways two days earlier baulked at letting the same woman fly with her guide dog.

Donna Purcell and her husband, Ric, of Sydney, met a wall of resistance from Tiger Airways when they tried to fly return to Adelaide with her guide dog for a weekend away last month. First, she was told that Tiger did not take dogs, then she would have to buy an extra ticket for it and even then could not be guaranteed to fly. Eventually she convinced the airline to take her to Adelaide, but when Tiger cancelled the return flight, she approached Qantas.

Despite at least 20 seats being available on a plane that evening, Qantas asked her to stand aside while they processed other Tiger passengers. Qantas counter staff told her to call reservations, who told her dogs were not allowed in Adelaide airport. The airline finally booked them on a flight the next day. It left Ms Purcell and her husband stuck in Adelaide with no accommodation arranged or food for her seeing-eye dog, Hetty, a three-year-old black labrador on a special diet.

Ms Purcell has lodged complaints with both airlines and the Human Rights Commission. "I was shunned because I had a guide dog," she said.

Tiger Airways, which could find no record of the complaint, yesterday apologised to Ms Purcell, blaming an outsourced company for not understanding the airline's policy. "Tiger Airways will take immediate action to remind our staff and business partners of our policies in relation to passengers with special needs," its communications manager, Vanessa Regan, said.

Qantas head of communication Olivia Wirth said the Qantas counter staff did not have the authority to make the seat allocation but the airline took the matter seriously and had apologised to Ms Purcell, offered to pay expenses and was reviewing its processes.


Qantas passengers in dark for eight hours

DOZENS of international travellers' plans were thrown into chaos last night when a Qantas flight to Singapore was delayed by eight hours and then finally cancelled. A faulty emergency exit door has been blamed for the delay.

Passengers on the 2pm flight from Adelaide were initially told that the flight would be delayed by am hour. But at 9.45pm last night, they were told the part needed for the door had not arrived and the flight would be rescheduled. Many passengers missed connecting flights in Singapore as a result and some passengers became irate when advised of the further day's delay.


QANTAS has lost it

Qantas is in the process of reinventing itself, if you believe the company's own hype. It has spent millions on a customer service training centre in Sydney; at least on domestic routes to begin with, it is in the process of redefining the customer check-in experience to radically reduce the time it takes.

It sees the main brand as a premium carrier, complemented by Jetstar as a cheap alternative, with the group able to offer something for each part of the market. But, particularly for long-haul travel, I'm wondering whether the Qantas group has already lost the battle for Australian hearts and minds.

The combined Qantas group share of the market is now below 30% on international routes from Australia, where once its share was nearer 50% (admittedly in the much more regulated old days). Its market share continues to shrink in spite of the invention of Jetstar, which was designed to increase it.

On the US route, Qantas is being clobbered by new capacity from V Australia and Delta, although Qantas still has the lion's share. Between here and Europe, Qantas is being swamped, not only by traditional rivals like Singapore Airlines, which continues methodically and relentlessly to increase its Australia market share (in spite of this year's pause caused by the global slowdown), but also by the new Arabian Gulf carriers, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar.

More than a million Australians - about 20% of everyone heading overseas - are going to Europe, but only 40% of them to English-speaking Europe (that is, the UK). Yet Qantas now has only two European destinations where it flies its own planes - London and the German business capital, Frankfurt. Its key competitors have far more comprehensive European networks. Emirates, for example, now has more than 20 European cities.

In the past two decades, Qantas has axed Manchester, Paris, Rome and Athens - not because it couldn't fill its planes on those routes, but because there weren't enough business travellers to make those routes pay.

Jetstar plans to return to Rome and Athens. But I think Jetstar will not only struggle to find acceptance from Australians if it flies to Europe, but also needs to tap new markets for visitors to Australia - and most (though not all) of those are in Northern Europe. Think Spain, Germany's many big regional cities, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland -- countries from where travel to Australia is already (or potentially) the strongest.

Do you think of Qantas if you're heading to Europe? How would Jetstar go against Singapore Airlines and Emirates? Has the horse already bolted, particularly since its chief low-cost rival, AirAsiaX, already flies daily to London and has just secured rights to fly to Paris?