In February I described on this web site a long and arduous fight that I was having with Jetstar regarding rescheduling my flight. You can get the full details by looking up my entry on 09/02/2013 titled "Wish me luck". In brief back in September 2012 I purchased a return flight from Brisbane to Melbourne for 31 march 2013 (ie over 6 month later). Jetstar rescheduled my flight on 3 occasions totalling almost 3 hours. I wasn't given a choice and a refund was out of question. Their attitude was either accept the change or loose your money. No if, no buts !. I was given the same arrogant responses and the usual run-around that hundreds of people have described on this web site. You can read the full storey of what I had to go through on my entry on this site (http://www.dontflyjetstar.com/complaints/wish-me-luck) but suffice to say that I eventually took them to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). I went through a very simple lodgement process and my hearing was scheduled for the 28 March. One thing that I forgot to mention in my previous entry was that as well as complaining to the ACA, DFT and jetstar, I also lodged a dispute with my Credit Card provider NAB VISA. This is one of the most powerful warranties that you can have when purchasing anything on line. I know many people complain about the additional charge for using their Gold Visa but believe me it is worth every penny. Visa credited my account with the disputed amount immediately so to avoid interest but advised me that if my dispute is unsuccessful they would have to debit the account for that amount.
About 5 days before my tribunal hearing I received a call from a Jetstar employee who introduced himself as the Senior Customer Advocate Office. I will not mention his name as it is irrelevant. He asked if I was willing to negotiate with them to withdraw my claim. He claimed that Jetstar have already refunded the full fare to my credit card. I advised him that I would if they agree to pay my out of pocket expenses which came to $34.50 ($21.50 QCAT lodgement fee plus two registered mail totalling $13.00). I know. I know it was petty but it felt good ! He said that he had to check with his superiors and get back to me. He called back same day and they agreed to my request. I also asked for a letter on Jetstar letterhead confirming that they had made payments to my credit card and the issue was no longer on dispute. He agreed to that as well. I wanted the letter so that I can post it on this site. I received and email with the attachment letter. However they also included a disclosure clause in the letter which meant that I had to keep my settlement confidential. I was absolutely furious. The little shits (Shits as in Shitstar. I have no grudge against the person who I was dealing with) thought that they can buy me for $34.50 and gag me after messing me around for almost 5 months. He would not delete the confidentiality clause and I refused to sign the letter. The day before the Tribunal hearing (27 March) I received another call from another Senior Customer Advocate asking me if I had reconsidered my decision and if I was going to attend the hearing. My answer was "no" and "yes" respectively. To be honest I wasn't expecting anyone from Jetstar to attend. They had to send someone from Melbourne to attend the hearing at 9:00am in Brisbane. And all for $34.50. But as it turned out they did send a Senior Customer Advocate including a suite, tie, polished shoes and briefcase from Melbourne. The hearing went for about 30 minutes and the Member reserved his decision for later after reading Jetstar's argument which they only presented on the day of the hearing.
To be honest I wasn't too optimistic as the Member (magistrate) was mainly concerned with the contract and I was pretty sure that Jetstar had a watertight contract. But I was still happy to drag a senior officer from Melbourne to Brisbane and get him to spend a few hours waiting in the court for a $34.50 claim. Just imagine how much that would have cost them. The documentation they lodged on the day was a full dossier of what had happened including copies of the computer screen shots showing their communication with me and other parties. It must have taken them hours to prepare it. All for $34.50. I would have been more than happy if I did not get the refund.
A while ago the QCAT Senior Member handed down his decision and I received the letter last week. It simply says:
"Take notice that this application was heard before the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal at BRISBAE on the 28 March and the following decision was made. That the Respondent (that is Jetstar) pay the Applicant (that is me) the filing fee of $21.50 forthwith".
That is the amount that I had on my application as my out of pocket expenses. Remember that Jetstar had already refunded the ticket prices and they confirmed it in the hearing to the Magistrate. So the QCAT Senior Member adjudicate in my favour and ordered Jetstar to pay the outstanding balance which amazingly they did within a week of the decision being handed down. Unfortunately the reason for his decision was not mentioned in the Decision Letter but I have requested a copy from QCAT.
This is a huge win for us consumers against Jetstar. I hope that it sets a precedence for anyone who now wishes to sue Jetstar for cancelling or re-scheduling their flights. The reason for the decision is very important in this instance. My action against Jetstar was for two reasons. Firstly that the product (Flight) that I had purchased was different to the one that I was eventually offered by Jetstar. Jetstar argued that it was a minor change. I argued that in absence of a definition of “minor” in the contract, a 3 hour delay for a 2.5 hour flight was a "major" change in my books. Secondly that the entire contract was “unfair”. The Fair Trading Act clearly specifies that a contract MUST be “Fair” AND “not weight in favour of one party”. Jetstar (and to some extend all other airlines) have designed their contract so that it gives them full jurisdiction to do whatever they want to do whilst the consumer has no right whatsoever to make any changes without paying a kings ransom. It is heavily weight in favour of the airlines. If the reason for the Magistrates decision was that the contract was unfair, then the implications on Jetstar would be massive. A class action as suggested by some people on this web site would certainly get a totally new perspective.
I will update this site once I receive the full “reason for decision” from QCAT. Meanwhile I encourage anyone in the same situation to take Jetstar on. The decision of the Tribunal sets a precedence and makes it much more easier to chase these scum bags through legal action. Nothing will happen if we all just complain on sites like this without following it up. Jetstar (and other airlines) are masters of ignoring complaints. They have made the process of complaining as complicated as possible knowing well that most of us will just give up after a while. They are always the winners. If more people take them on on their own ground they will eventually realise that it doesn't pay to stuff people around. Remember it took $21.50 to lodge a complaint to QCAT and probably similar cost in other states. I doubt if Jetstar want to send a Senior Customer Advocate (what a wanky name. What happened to Customer SERVICE ?) across the country to attend tribunal hearings every time they treat a customer with contempt. If you complain to Jetstar you are more than welcome to quote the result of my action against them. For privacy reasons I am not going to disclose all my details but I am sure they would remember the QCAT decision on 28/03/2013 for The Claim 0000087/13. If you want more details about the case leave your email on this site and I will reply with more information.