tip off
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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.

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  • 1
    patrick kilby
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    A case where the advertiser copy writers have no idea or cannot read the news, as they cannot offer some of those flights particularly the Perth, Adelaide, and Brisbane ones (vis Sin and London) as there is no longer any flights with QF badging the others they can, but do not mention the Dubai fuel stop, but then they don’t have to mention that anyway and is neither here nor there. Note the QF website now has the logo of the connecting airline with the QF flight number

  • 2
    Harry
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    This seems more like a bad mistake to me, rather than an attempt to mislead. It seems inconceivable that a travel firm would lie to passengers about their routing (can you imagine the disaster of a passenger who thought they were going to London ending up in Dubai?), and the copyright 2009 suggests they haven’t updated their fine print in a while…

  • 3
    Ricardo
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    This is not an isolated incident. I received an email today from an online travel agent, entitled
    “Qantas First Class Special to Europe”

    It goes on to stipulate that you can experience Qantas’ renowned A380 First Class Seat. It shows a picture (suitably captioned “Qantas First Class on A380″)
    And then states;
    “- Return First Class to Milan shown”

    This can only be viewed as misleading and deceptive conduct under the Trade Practices Act.

    In the ‘fine print’ it does allow that “Cabin seat featured in presentation may not be available on all flights”

    It would seem to me that Qantas must be the source of these highly misleading and deceptive offers, as it is unlikely that the travel industry, in toto, has elected to try the strong arm of the ACCC.

    I get that you can fly to Milan on a QF flight number but it will in no way feature a Qantas first class seat and it won’t even be on an A380 as EK uses A330′s & B777′s on this route.

    I also have a problem with the disclaimer (such as it is) using the expression “not all” in reference to not all flights may feature the seat shown.

    I would have thought that the reasonable person test, under law, would assume that the use of the expression ” not all” would be reasonably entitled to assume that most, if not the majority, WOULD.

    I don’t think one or two QF A380′s a day to LHR, against all of the EK flights to Europe, would be entitled to the defense of “not all” in any reasonable person’s mind.

    Ben feel free to contact me if you would like a copy of the email.

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