A Queensland mother-of-three attempting to redeem thousands of dollars worth of travel credits has been dragged through holiday-booking hell by Qantas, which instead charged her entire $6000 trip to her credit card.
Gold Coast mum Sam Cardone would have to pay another $1000 as flights prices increased dramatically during what she claims were successive failures by the national carrier to use their own travel credit system.
She fought the increases and won, but it took hours on the phone, more than 150 messages, and an inquiry from 7NEWS.com.au before Qantas issued a hefty refund.
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Cardone’s ordeal began in early May after she decided to finally use the $2500 of travel credits on her Qantas Travel Pass collected from flight cancellations during the pandemic before they expired at the end of 2023.
She saw the perfect chance to redeem them by splitting the $6000 sum of her family’s end-of-year return flights to Fiji, between the credits on her Travel Pass and her credit card.
Qantas has been criticised over its travel credit system. Credit: AAP
Things started taking a savage turn after she first tried to make the split payment while booking online.
Despite receiving “several error messages” while trying to split the payment between her travel credits and her credit card, a relieved Cardone assumed that she’d finally found success when a booking reference number finally popped up on her screen.
However, two days later, Cardone received an Amex notification — her credit card had been drained of about $3500 more than she was expecting.
“The entire ($6000 cost of the flights) had been charged to my credit card, and nothing had been charged to my Qantas Pass.”
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After chasing up the issue with Qantas, she said the airline told her the only way to deal with the issue was to cancel the flights and immediately rebook them over the phone.
It was the start of countless hours, over 150 messages and an “every day back-and-forth” spent trying to resolve the problem.
Eventually, Cardone was told the price of the flights “had gone up” after the initial booking and that she’d need to pay the difference.
Frustrated, but keen to get it sorted, Cardone agreed. But the ordeal was far from over.
The customer service representative re-booking the flights over the phone received an error message, too. Cardone was told Qantas would call her back, but the call never came.
Instead, now two sets of flights were appearing in her Qantas app, she said. All the while, the cost of flights kept increasing.
Gold Coast mum Sam Cardone had to pay an extra $1000 on her flights after a travel credit booking glitch, she said. Credit: Supplied
Qantas reserves the right to set the price on the day, but Cardone probed the protocol, asking: “Why aren’t you offering the prices that you offered me the other day, considering that it was your inability to process those tickets that is now causing the problem?”
After once more agreeing to another price hike, she said the airline again failed to process both the refund and purchase. “At this stage, I was frustrated beyond belief,” she said.
Multiple messages from the airline subsequently claiming “the issue has been resolved” didn’t correlate with a brimming Qantas Pass, two sets of flights on her account, and the thousands missing from her credit card balance.
‘No responsibility taken on their part’
Cardone said she was “constantly bending over backwards, and agreeing to more and more and more” as the ordeal dragged on. However, she claims the airline made no such effort.
“There was no responsibility taken on their part for their Customer Care team’s inability to actually fix the problem.”
She admitted she would have “given up” and used the flight credits on a later holiday, but the credits expired in December.
She chose to spend an extra $1000 on her flights — the amount by which the cost of them had increased since her initial booking attempt — so that the $2500 worth of credit could be honoured because she “didn’t have the capacity to use it again.”
“It’s not like I could just take another holiday,” she said.
Over 150 messages between Cardone and Qantas show just part of a weeks-long attempt to salvage the travel credits. Credit: Supplied
Cardone said she came up with the eventual solution to cancel flights on a single leg of the booked journey, so that price hikes weren’t applied to the entire return trip when rebooked.
“It was my suggestion, which they fought me on. Eventually, they allowed me,” she said.
Qantas told 7NEWS.com.au that millions of dollars’ worth of Qantas Passes are used by customers for bookings towards flights each week.
“My concern is with so many people trying to use these Qantas credits, they’re making it extremely difficult,” Cardone said.
“It’s creating a real barrier for people trying to use the credit, which is their credit to use.”
Cardone is a regular traveller, but said: “I can’t image being someone who is uneducated in this area, or who is, perhaps, elderly, or not used to using these websites. If it tricked me, I can’t imagine how many other people have struggled with it.”
“It really does concern me that when a problem is highlighted to Qantas, their capacity or willingness to fix it is where it all falls apart. They don’t seem to want to engage with the customer to fix the problem, even when you agree to pay more.”
A Qantas spokesperson told 7NEWS.com.au: “We understand this would have been a frustrating experience. We are reaching out to the customer, so we can look into this further.”
Since being contacted by 7NEWS.com.au, Qantas has been in touch with Cardone and has “agreed to refund the difference” in flight costs so that Cardone is “only paying what (she) originally agreed to.”
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