Why You Always Have to Be Careful Flying Budget Airlines

JetStar

Photo Credits: by monkeyc.net on Flickr

Flying budget airlines is always a bit of a risk. Saving on a flight often means taking a hit in customer service or comforts. Smaller seats, less leg room and paying through the nose for anything extra is something you’ll no doubt look forward too.

However, what I came up against with JetStar was crappy service beyond anything I had expected.

A little backstory

For our trip from Australia to Japan, our flight agent booked us with JetStar. Considering some of the prices and out of the way locations we would have to travel on other airlines, this was probably a good decision. Saving the client money and time is always a plus is most travel agent’s books.

As I researched baggage fees ahead of time, I noticed something interesting about JetStar. While the flights were cheaper, they we’re going to charge an arm and a leg for anything else. Baggage fees were going to be a whopping $80 per 20kg bag when checked-in online or $160 per bag when checked-in at the airport. Any weight over the maximum 20 kg was a measly $25 per kilogram.

Yikes!

For this reason I started looking into cheaper options.

I found that if you upgraded from their JetSaver Light to a regular JetSaver fare you would be allowed one checked bag for free. So at $80 per checked bagged I thought it would be worth a shot to ask about upgrading and maybe save a bit of money.

First off, getting in touch with anyone from JetStar is as easy as threading a jumbo jet through the eye of a needle. They have absolutely no email addresses listed on their site, and amazingly enough, when you fill out their online form, at the end, it prompts you to print out the form and mail it to them! MAIL IT TO THEM?!

What the what?

Dear JetStar: There’s something out there called the Internet. Look into it.

So with that in mind, I decided I would wait and call them when I got to Australia, since it would be a local number (that’s right, they have no toll free phone numbers, either).

The phone call

So a few days before our flight, and with blood pressure rising, I phoned JetStar.

Surprisingly, I got through pretty quickly, only having to wait 5 minutes or so to be connected to an agent. And although the agent clearly didn’t speak English as her native tongue, that really doesn’t bother me. She told me that she would be able to tell me the difference in price and asked me for my confirmation number and flight date.

That’s when she told me that the date I had given her wasn’t the same as the one she had. I said I was flying out on the 7th and she said I was flying on the 13th.

I quickly looked over my itinerary again and said that it was quite clear that it was the 7th that I was flying on. So she put me on hold to go take a closer look.

Can you imagine my surprise when she came back on and told me that they had moved us to the 13th, and oh yeah, we didn’t really contact you about it! Then she said – sorry about that.

Oh well…you’re sorry about it, eh? That makes everything so much better!

After sitting stunned for a few seconds, I said I would like to be moved backed to my original booking. Since I had train tickets and accommodations already booked for Japan, there was no way I could fly out a week later.

She told me, sorry, that wasn’t possible, but would I like to confirm my new booking?

Uh…no?

With that I told her that I would have to call my travel agent and get her involved. And as I hung up the phone I still couldn’t really believe what was happening.

Book early, book often

As I felt the rage starting to bubble up, I thought back to see if there was anything I had done wrong. I had booked the tickets about six months ago, so why were we being bumped? Did the rest of the passengers book this flight 2 years ago? Was there something about Canadians that they didn’t like?

After a quick email to my travel agent in Vancouver I set about doing what I had been originally planning to do – enjoying my vacation. But I had to admit, this flight was hanging over me like the sword of Damocles for the rest of the day. Although I thoroughly enjoyed snorkeling around the Great Barrier Reef, I couldn’t get it out of my head that we may not have a flight to take to Japan.

The response

My Flight Centre travel agent was a complete life saver. She got back to me right away even though it was a Sunday night in Vancouver. She said that the situation was completely ridiculous and she would look into it first thing when she got into the office Monday morning.

This made me feel a whole lot better, and reaffirmed for me why I pay a bit more and use a travel agent. I didn’t have time to spend 3 hours on the phone and fight this out.

Later that day, and after having spent over 80 minutes on hold, my agent got back to me with the bad news. The flight had actually been completely canceled and no reason was given as to why. On top of that, they had neither contacted me nor my agent. The reason they gave was that they tried but they couldn’t get in contact with us. Yeah, because it’s almost impossible to find a phone number for Flight Centre in Australia.

It’s only Australia’s largest travel agency!!

The icing on the cake was when they informed my agent that they had another flight on the 6th and would I like to book that?

Hmm…let me think…the 6th or the 13th? Of course the 6th you idiots!

With that, my agent recommended I quickly book on the 6th before they change their minds. So I sent an email confirming and mentioned that I would like to be upgraded from JetSaver Light to JetSaver for all the hassle. My agent agreed completely and gave them a ring.

If you think JetStar has the world’s worst customer service by this point, just you wait for their reply.

After spending entirely too long on the phone fighting my case, my agent emailed me back informing me that it was a no on the upgrade. The reason being that they were already waiving the re-booking fee, which they thought was very generous of them.

Oh sweet heavens above! JetStar is not going to charge me for re-booking a flight that they canceled? Everywhere, throughout the world, this outstanding example of benevolence and compassion will be preached!

Give your head a shake JetStar.

So with all this fun hopefully sorted out, I look eagerly to our upcoming flight. I think I’ll actually hold off on publishing this article until I’ve finished the flight. After all, who knows what kindness JetStar has in store for me next.

Updates

As I read up on some reviews of JetStar’s service, I encountered quite a few stories of cancellations and multiple-day layovers. In one case they even had to run around to find a pilot to fly the plane! So, as you can imagine, I was pretty concerned if we would ever get out of Brisbane.

As it turned out, there wasn’t anything to worry about.

The customer service was great and they even upgraded us to the next level of service that doesn’t have to pay for the luggage. So even though they said they were not going to, they must have had a change of heart. So that was welcome news.

On the second leg of the flight they put us in the emergency exit row, which meant a huge amount of leg room. Even though they made you pay for any type of meal service, the flight was short enough that I could forgive the extra charges for the roomy leg room.

So although things didn’t start well (and they still should have contacted us about the canceled flight), the actual flight experience was rather enjoyable.

For that reason I changed the title of this article from “Why I will never fly JetStar again” to what it is now.

One Response to “Why You Always Have to Be Careful Flying Budget Airlines”

  1. Shani  on March 16th, 2011

    Haha, what a story!! Sorry for all your trouble, but you do make an enjoyable rant I have to say! Glad it all turned out for you in the end!!


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