CHOICE membership

Reward points rip-off

Several months ago I booked a trip for me and my wife to Honolulu on a Qantas Classic Award arrangement. I used 61,500 points for each of us and also had to pay $406.26 for each of us for “Fees and Charges”. The trip will be next month and the routing is Gold Coast to Honolulu and return to Sydney. (There was no available Qantas flight from Sydney to Gold Coast with either Qantas or Jetstar on our return, so I have separately booked that leg with Virgin.)

This week I received a Jetstar email that advertised Brisbane to Honolulu return for $567 each for the same travel dates. It seems to me that the fees and charges component should be similar between Qantas and Jetstar, but how can the Jetstar $567 return fare include approx $406 for fees and charges? It would only leave approx $161 for the actual fare.

My conclusion is that the $406.26 for the Qantas “Fees and Charges” is actually for “Fees and Charges” AND Extra Profit. Had I known that I would have been able to use the Jetstar offer, I would not have used my Qantas points in this way.

Does anybody know if there is an authority to which I could complain? Is there an airline ombudsman or similar?

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Hi @flight, there is an airline customer advocate but from what we’ve heard it might be difficult to get any type of result, especially in the timeframe you need. Recently we’ve been calling for an airline ombudsmen but failing that, your only real recourse is to go to Qantas customer care and see if you can negotiate a better outcome.

I’ll be sure to share your story with our investigations team who work in this area too.

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Hi Brendan,

I have spoken to Qantas customer care and explained the situation to a very pleasant representative. She was unable to assist, other than by offering to see what the penalty might be if I wished to cancel the original flight and rebook with Jetstar. I didn’t take up that offer but I believe there may be a fee and a points penalty for making the booking change and for having a person do that change as opposed to doing it online myself.

There was no substantive reason given for why the fees and charges for Qantas would be higher for Qantas than Jetstar, other than they charge what they charge,

I have elected to retain the original booking because it is an important trip to celebrate my Wife’s special birthday. Obviously, I can’t take any risks with that.

On visiting the site for the airline customer advocate, it seems to me that their remit doesn’t really cover the situation I described, or there is certainly enough wriggle room for them to say that it doesn’t. All I can do is be wary next time and also tell everybody who will listen about this sharp practice by Qantas.

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As a general statement that does have exceptions, a large number of the airline ‘rewards’ with their fees often come very close to routine promotional offers, as you experienced. I see it as a racket where they essentially value points against full fare, but the real value can be almost nil when the fees approach the promotional cost.

Ever wonder why we get so much advertising about airline points? They have to be a great deal for someone. Guess who :open_mouth:

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That’s so right TheBBG.

Just for fun I had a better look at what might be involved with the Jetstar option. I found that they don’t fly on the same dates as I have booked with Qantas, so it was no good to me because I have already booked and confirmed accommodation for specific dates.

I am actually considering changing my credit card to one that earns Virgin Velocity points instead of Qantas, because Virgin rewards are more attractive. That’s the ultimate protest - vote with my feet.

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Perhaps the Choice Complane http://complane.com.au/ could be enlarged to take these sorts of complaints by customers. As an added benefit it would allow Choice to garner better intelligence about the airline industry.

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That’s what I did and it has worked out for the better.
Avoid Jetstar is the standard operating procedure.

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I wonder if the fights booked using frequent flyer points are full fair seats rather than the discounted classes released from time to time to increase patronage?

This would explain why the frequent flyer seats are more expensive than what one could get waiting for ‘special deals’.

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Sure, there might be a fare differential, but as long as my backside points South I will not understand how the so-called fees and charges can be so much higher for a Qantas fare than a Jetstar fare. What can change with landing charges, customs charges, passenger movement charges, immigration charges, ticketing costs or any other kind of charges?

We are being taken for mugs and we just should not take it any more.

How can charges for a Qantas flight be over $400 when the total Jetstar fare is around $567?

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I understand that each airport has different charges, and usually secondary airports like Gold Coast and Avalon having lower fees for airlines, compared to Brisbane and Melbourne.

Are the flight routes exactly the same…arrival and departure airport codes also the same (e.g. SYD and HNL)?

There are a number of international airports in Hawaii and each could have different fees/taxes like that which exists in Australia, especially if the Jetstar flight isnt to HNL.

Also, does the Jeststat flight include meals, luggage and other things which may be included in the Qantas tidket price?

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I spent too many years as a platinum flyer on multiple US airlines each year. I had minimum trouble and no fees getting award tickets from my home in the US to Fiji, Hong Kong, and Australia, or US domestic. nb. Many of the US carrier awards were on partner airlines such as Qantas and Cathay Pacific.

Moving to Australia I found that Qantas awards were more miles compared to the US carriers, plus fees. One does not have to compare a QF award to a JQ ticket, a curiosity (to be polite)is evident between a QF classic award and a QF discounted ticket.

From the airlines (programs are not always owned the airlines, underlying their profitability as stand-along businesses) view we are getting something ‘free’ since although we pay for it by our custom it is not a surcharge to get miles (except in specific circumstances).

As was mentioned in another thread, business is obligated to maximise profit, and in that pursuit business will minimise the value of miles to its best ability, and appears to do that.

I just sampled a particular QF economy return, 120,000 miles at roughly $0.0155 per mile value (The QF fare is $1,861 today) if you could get one, but the small print states Taxes, fees and carrier charges are payable in addition to the points required, which will be disclosed to you at the time of booking. and mentions capacity control, not available on all flights, no award seats available on some flights, etc. A business class award is 192,000 miles, relatively favourable value against the economy award.

‘Anyseat’ economy class awards appear to be priced against full fare at roughly $0.005 value per mile same as for product redemptions;. However trying to make sense for ‘Anyseat’, QF states There is no fixed relationship between the cash price charged by the airline for a seat and the points required to redeem an Any Seat Award through Qantas. The pesky fees slugged for the classic awards appear to be included with Anyseat, as with a paid ticket.

Last comment that should be obvious, the algorithm for award seats in its best outcome for the airlines is to fill seats that their booking systems predict might go empty, so their cost of providing the award is a meal, a bit of fuel for you and your baggage, and perhaps a hedge for the lost income if they might have sold the seat for cash.

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phbriggs2000 - If you care to read my original post you will see that tried to make it clear that the flights being compared are not identical. in fact the Jetstar option includes return to the starting point in Queensland, but the Qantas arrangement leaves me stranded in Sydney, from where I have had to arrange a separate flight with Virgin.

Just to clarify it for you. All figures are per person.

Jetstar: Brisbane to Sydney to Honolulu to Sydney to Brisbane $567 (including charges, but plus baggage, meal)

Qantas: Gold Coast to Sydney to Honolulu to Sydney $406 Charges (baggage and meal included)

Using your logic, the Qantas option should attract less charges because it uses Gold Coast Airport rather than Brisbane. Both options transit via Sydney because there are no direct flights any more.

I still maintain that the charges for the Qantas “Award” flight are disproportionately high. There is no way the cost of baggage and the usual pathetic meal would compensate.

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I don’t disagree, but it is not possible to really compare a full service airline like Qantas flying a different route to a low cost airline like Jetstar.

I assume that when you booked the Qantas flight you originally booked using your frequent flyer points was satisfactory for your needs…may not have been perfect, but okay for what you planned to do and also the limitations asaociated with using flyer points? If it wasn’t, I could have expected the flight would not have been booked.

In this case, possibly finding a what seems like a cheaper flight on another airline (with same parent company) gave you grief and makes you very annoyed that possibly you should have waited a few days/weeks as you could have got a better deal.

To me it is a bit like buying something big…say a fridge and then finding out that in a months time another fridge you also considered purchasing was heavily discounted and substantially chepaer than the purchase you made. If the other fridge had been discounted when you were making a decision, then you may have gone for the discounted one to save money and also to get maybe a few features which were not in the fridge you bought. A bit like your situation.

If I could predict when flights were the cheapest, I possibly should enter the lotto as I would have a greater chance of winning the jackpot.

Whilst it is really annoting/frustrating, the importsnt thing is you made the original flight purchase based on the informationnat that time. If you had known and been able to predict the future, you would possibly have changed that decision to something else. I have experienced this a number of times, including travelling with others who got a far better deal than i did, but I always think if I didn’t know what others got, then I woukd still have been happy with the decision I had made.

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Alright phbriggs2000, I’ll have one more try.

Firstly, there is a good argument for denying that Qantas is a full service airline. About all you get is included baggage and a barely edible meal. Oh, you can also get alcohol, which is recommended by medical authorities not to be consumed on long haul flights. Maybe you are accustomed to travelling at the pointy end of the plane where such a thing as service may exist, but economy class is known as cattle class for good reason.

Secondly, my complaint is NOT based upon buyer’s remorse and I do not need your dissertation on that subject. Yes, I was satisfied to a degree at the time, based upon the information at my disposal. It still was a matter of some dismay at the time of booking that there was such a large additional payment required in addition to the points.

However, when I later found out that I have been conned, I was and I still am very annoyed about that. It is a simple matter of Qantas and/or their Frequent Flyer organisation having inflated the figure described as fees and charges so as to produce extra profit. This became obvious from an examination of the recent Jetstar offering. Clearly the Qantas practice negates much of the value that the points may otherwise have had.

If you don’t agree, we will have to agree to differ.

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I agree that the fees and charges are for the Qantas flight is steep compared to the total cost of Jetstar flight (ex. luggage, including the number of bags and meals).

Comparing against Jetstar is not the right comparison as low cost carriers can have different charges and taxes to a high cost airline depending on what services are included in the flight and what airports the flights depart/arrive. Low cost airlines are notorious for drip costing by adding fees for luggage (adding one bag and then 2 or more), preferential seating, selecting seats, meals, in flight entertainment etc etc). I would not be surprised if these additional charges is where their business is very profitable.

One needs to compare with a full service flight using Qantas to Honolulu. I have done a quick look and for Qantas flying Ex Brisbane to Honolulu (transit through Sydney), departing on Brisbane the 4 June 2018 and departing Honolulu on 10 June 2018.

The taxes and fees for the above flight booked on the Qantas website is as follow:

Taxes, fees and charges
Transportation Tax $23.10
Passenger Service Charge - Dom $16.63
Passenger Service Charge - Dom $16.63
Passenger Facility Charge $5.70
Immigration User Fee $8.90
Safety and Security Charge $5.53
Passenger Services Charge - Intl $61.68
Passenger Civil Aviation Security Service Fee $7.10
Passenger Movement Charge (PMC) $60.00
Customs User Fee $7.20
Transportation Tax $23.10
APHIS User Fee $5.00

TOTAL $240.57 per person (note: plugging in different dates gives slightly different totals but the three I did were within a few percentage of this example).

The above don’t include any additional Qantas fees including the potential $70 booking fee per person for international flights and a credit card fee of 1.23% (maximum being $70).

These two additional charges would take the amount to about $315.00 ($90 less than your frequent flyer point flight), which would be the total cost of surcharges above the base flight charges.

The other charge which I believe Qantas still has is the fuel surcharge. There are reports that this is added to a frequent flyer redemption flight (assume it may be included in the base flight when paying for it using cash/credit card)

Now, this +/- $90 (to $160 if booking charge is not triggered) may be the fuel surcharge, I don’t know but if Qantas is still charging the fuel surcharge, then the difference between paying cash/credit card or using frequent flyers could be significantly less than $90 (or equal to or more). It is this difference which Qantas needs to explain if it does exist.

Also, then booking it is possible to look at all the fees, charges and taxes associated with the booking. Unfortunately the link to this information is on the bottom right of the webpage and can easily be missed as most of us are interested in the total cost which is at the upper right of the same page.

It would have been interesting to know the full breakdown of the fees and charges, as this would have given a better indication what they are and whether Qantas has been more generous in its favour when booking using frequent flyers.

Did you manage to keep the itemised list of fees and charges when making the booking…or have you requested Qantas provide you such when making contact with them so you know what the $406 breakdown is so you can see if it comparable to a full fare paid flight?

Such information, if there is a discrepancies (with the above outlined fees and taxes) will be useful both to Choice and also when making a complaint about the reasonableness of the $406 fees and charges.

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Unfortunately I don’t have a breakdown of the $406 per person. I’m not sure if it was offered at the time of booking, but I will attempt to get a breakdown from Qantas. This may take a few days because I am away for the next week.

With the fuel surcharge, I seem to recall an issue a while back where a dispute was raised with Qantas. It involved travel agents not being paid commission on the fuel surcharge component of the fare. Is it possible that the fuel surcharge might have been excluded from reward fees and charges at the same time as the agent’s dispute was settled? In other words was it then recognised as simply part of the fare, rather than the fees and charges?

Assuming the $240.57 you have calculated is for Brisbane to Honolulu and return to Brisbane, with Sydney transit both ways, then it is overstated to the degree of the last Sydney to Brisbane leg when compared to my Gold Coast to Sydney to Honolulu to Sydney. Are you able to isolate the charges for the final Sydney To Brisbane leg and deduct them from $240.57 before comparing to my $406? The Jetstar special (and your Qantas figures?) did include return to Brisbane, which makes my $406 from Qantas look even worse since it doesn’t cover the whole distance.

I didn’t pay any credit card fees. I always pay by bank deposit or that Poli service. I didn’t see a booking fee at any stage.

Thanks for your analysis.

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We had the same issue with a flight to Bali. I compared the taxes using a Jetstar flight vs a Qantas flight and they were the same. However, if you use QF points on the Jetstar flight they add on a charge which is solely based on it being a Jetstar aircraft rather than a QF. They call it a “carrier” charge. So rather than being “fees and charges” as you have written, they call it “taxes, fees and carrier charges.” In our case it was still cheaper than buying the fare outright though so we accepted it.

I’m not sure if they do this if you use your points on other partners like AA or CA but possibly. The charge is listed in their T&C but it’s vague and until you make the comparison, it’s hard to see how it works. While I agree it’s a bit of a rip off, I don’t think you’d be able to get anywhere lodging a complaint.

ps

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The FF programs depend on that. Miles are generally valued about $0.005 for product redemptions (shrinking over time). Flight awards, when you can get them, can be worth $0.0125 and higher per mile when the miles are compared to then current fares for the same itinerary.

But if the awards have pesky fees, taxes, carrier charges, and any other cleverly named charges added, if the miles value drops back to $0.005 (or less) one is donating back to the points/miles program.

If cash flow is an issue I can understand why the lowest out-of-pocket is attractive.

If cash flow is not a worry and the redemption program offers something one wants, the points would be more valuable by redeeming the miles for a product and buying a ticket. When buying a ticket you also usually have more flexibility in flights and the ‘capacity controls’ for the fare are fully transparent.

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I have used Qantas customer care and care is not the word I would have used

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Further to my response above, I have some more information. All the following figures are for 2 passengers.

I have played through a trial Qantas economy booking for exactly the same route and dates as my FF points booking for a true apples versus apples comparison. The result is a total cost of $2,083.00 of which $449.00 is for taxes, fees and charges.

Thus, with my points booking, $449.00 of economy fare taxes, fees and charges magically becomes $812.52, being an increase of $363.52. So far, I have no explanation for this increase but I have written to Qantas and asked for a breakdown of the $812.52 figure. If I don’t get a reasonable response, I will consider where I can take the issue.

The $449.00 is detailed as follows during the economy booking:

Transportation Tax $46.80
Passenger Service Charge - Dom $14.90
Passenger Service Charge - Dom $17.28
Passenger Facility Charge $11.60
Immigration User Fee $18.00
Passenger Services Charge - Intl $123.36
Passenger Movement Charge (PMC) $120.00
Customs User Fee $14.60
Transportation Tax $46.80
APHIS User Fee $10.20

Incidentally, the points booking saves $1,270.48 ($2,083.00 less $812.52) for the use of 123,000 points. This values the points at $0.01032911 per point.

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