Qantas services to Europe misrepresented to consumers
Is the hand over by Qantas of customers to an 'Arab airline' so alarming to some consumers targeted by travel retailers that they have to misrepresent the Qantas-Emirates deal as meaning people can fly to far more places in Europe on real Qantas jets?
Given the care that Qantas and airlines and travel retailers in general take to inform consumers as to the identity of the airlines operating a particular code shared flight, an electronic offer to customers by Travelscene American Express is astonishing for the extent to which it deceives its readers.
The Qantas Europe Sale offers attractive deals for booking by 25 January for flights between 31 March and 31 May.
Which is of course, a period which includes the first three months of the Qantas-Emirates proposed partnership which the ACCC has indicated it will approve anytime from today to next week.
But there is no mention of Emirates in the e-brochure nor in the fine print.
In fact the fine print insists that the customer will fly to Madrid and Vienna and Paris with Qantas, which is untrue. If it had said the customer will fly part of the way on Emirates, or British Airways, or Air France, it may have been true.
But even more puzzling, it also says that customers would fly to these cities via London, which doesn’t make sense given that Emirates flies non-stop to each from Dubai, and anyone who does fly to Paris via London on any combination of airlines is seriously badly advised.
There is also a seeming aversion in the fine print to mentioning Dubai, as some flights are described as going via both Singapore and London, and others, as just via London, and there are no non-stop flights between Australia and London, although the new commercial partnership does appear to allow Qantas to hand over its passengers to an Emirates code-share in Singapore, which could then fly you to Paris etc via London on yet another airline after a gratuitously exhausting journey considering the frequency with which Emirates bypasses London for those wanting to fly conveniently to other cities in the UK and Europe.
Is this nit-picking? Yes, of course it is, but it is also about honest and accurate descriptions of goods and services in retail offers. The airlines are acutely careful to inform consumers as to what airline they are really flying on, because it is the law, in many countries, and it is a costly law to offend.
And American Express is a highly professional firm, also acutely aware of its obligations to fully inform consumers on such matters.
All of which might reasonably make one wonder to what extent some people will go to misrepresent the Qantas-Emirates partnership as meaning there are vastly more opportunities to fly Qantas to all sorts of places it hasn’t ever, or hasn’t for a long time, actually served in its own Qantas Spirit of Australia jets.
Does this exercise suggest that Travelscene American Express executives have decided that their marketing targets might get upset at being told they are flying on, gasp, an Arab airline, but that by the time they get to the airport and see the reality of Emirates’ very impressive modern jets go ‘oh what the heck’ rather than go home and sue?
At the foot of the offer forwarded to Plane Talking there is a line which reads:
This e-newsletter is produced by Travelscene American Express Head Office and distributed to our customer database.
Honesty in consumer relations is important. For Travelscene American Express to leave crucial information out of its offering may not have been intentionally dishonest, but it is surely unprofessional, clumsy and contrary to the standards that consumer and fair trading authorities expect in Australia.
Ben Sandilands has reported and analysed the mechanical mobility of humanity since late 1960 - the end of the age of great scheduled ocean liners and coastal steamers and the start of the jet age. He’s worked in newspapers, radio and TV in a wide range of roles as a journalist at home and abroad for 56 years, the last 18 freelance.