I booked a return flight to Melbourne with Jetstar in September 2012 for flight in March 2013. The purpose of the flight was to catch a connecting Jetstar flight to Bangkok. My flight from Brisbane was for 8:45Am. As soon as I pressed the accept button I realised that I should have probably booked an earlier flight to give myself more buffer for the connecting flight just in case Jetstar is delayed leaving Brisbane. I called the customer service straight away and explained my mistake and asked that considering I just booked the flight a couple of minutes ago if she would consider changing my flight to an earlier one. The cost of both flights were the same on their web booking site. A woman with one of those horrid wannabe American accents told me with a very jolly voice that "I can definitely help you with this issue Sir". Then proceed to tell me that I have to pay a $70 change over fee plus the difference between my original (3 minute ago) flight and the new one which for some miraculous reason suddenly got inflated by almost 250%. So I decided to leave thing as is. Thanked her for being such a wonderful help and hung up.
A few days later I received an email from jetstar to advise me that my return flight was cancelled and I was given a new flight time of 1 hour and 50 minutes later. I called customer service and spoke to another wannabe who also told me with a jolly voice how she " can definitely help you with this issue Sir". I explained that I didn't want the rescheduled flight and would like a refund so that i can book my flight with another carrier. She suddenly changed her tone and now she couldn't help me with the issue anymore. I had to take the alternative flight and there was no second choice. After a long discussion she advised me to lodge a request through their web site which did immediately. Exactly 10 days later I got a call from a male wannabe with the same result. He could help me wonderfully with my problem but it would only be in their terms. I was advised again to lodge a "please reconsider" complaint through their web site. here's the interesting fact about Jetstar customer complaint process. Have you noticed that their home page has a little hypertext for something like "complains and compliments". However when you click on it you go to another page there is no sign of the complaint process anymore. The "make a compliment" is big and bold on the screen but nothing for the complaint. How convenient. You go to make a complaint and change your mind and compliment jetstar for their shite service instead. The other interesting thing about jetstar complaint service is that when you submit your complaint for the first time you get an acknowledgement back confirming that they have received you communication. But if you ever try and follow up that complaint with a second message you get no acknowledgement at all. This is because you have to put your case number in the form and I am sure they have a flag that turns the acknowledgement off if it is a follow up. I am guessing that is so that there is no record of your complaint anymore. And I will explain why a bit later.
Having had no luck with Jetstar I searched the web for any source where I can take my grievances further. I found out that there is no such a thing as an ombudsman for airlines. It is amazing that with all the complaints against airlines we don't have an independent ombudsman who can sort out this dictatorial behaviour in the Australian Airline Industry. Note that I said "independent" because I also found out that the airline industry have themselves setup and funded a "body" to handle complaints against themselves. It is called the Airline Customer Advocate (ACA) and it sound like it is manned by one person who handles everything from taking calls to following up on the complaints. I have to say here that she sound like a lovely lady and you can't help but feel her frustration when you talk to her. She got very quickly back to me advising me that I should have made a "please reconsider" request and Jetstar had no record of my second comunication. Remember my previous comment about lack of acknowledgement. However I had made a screen shot of the screen where I lodged the second complaint and when I sent a copy to her suddenly Jetstar found my missing "please reconsider" message. Surprise surprise after a few days I was sent a copy of response from jetstar basically telling me what the other two wannabes told me. That is I have no choice and have to cop the flight change. Within a couple of days of that response I received another email from jetstar advising me that I had a second rescheduling of my flight. This time the flight was delayed by a further 35 minutes and I was asked to logon to myjetstar account and accept the change. That's it. No other choice. Of course I did not accept it and to date I haven't.
I then lodged a complaint with department of Fair Trading on the basis that the flight that Jetstar is offering me is substantially different to the one that I had purchased. Unfortunately that didn't result in anything either, although I wasn't hoping much from DFT. However, the person that I spoke to in DFT after telling me that she has had numerous complaints against Jetstar advised me to take Jetstar to the Civil administration Tribunal (QCAT in queensand) for unfair contract. Apparently a contract is Queensland (I am not sure if this is only state or federal law) must be formed so that it is not weight in favour of one party. Jetstar's fare contract is definitely one sided. They have cleverly left the time of the flight out of the contract so that the flight time does not form part of your contract with Jetstar. They do not have to carry you at any specific time. That is how they manage to stuff people in airports. However the contract is clearly designed to be in favour of jetstar. It clearly allows for them to change the flights at will whilst the consumer has no right to alter any of the scheduled details (unless is willing to pay the ransom asked by Jetstar).
Amazingly as I was preparing my application to QCAT I received a third email from Jetstar telling me that my flight was changed yet again. This time by 15 minutes. One of Jetstar's argument with me was that the change to the flight was not "significant". However they could not tell me or point me to anywhere on their contract or web site where the "insignificant" is defined. What me and you call significant (in my case almost a 3 hour delay on a 2.5 hour flight) is insignificant for Jetstar. I suppose in absence of any definition they can call any delay "insignificant". That's how they get away with it. Most of us, including me, normally give up the fight after a while and rightly get on with our lives. However in this instance I intend to follow this as far as I can. I believe the best thing that can happen is for us the consumers to put pressure on our politicians to introduce an independent ombudsman for the Airline industry similar to that of the communications industry. The stench is not specific to jetstar although they are one of the worst stinkers as evident from the number of complaints on this site.
So, yesterday I received my letter from QCAT. I have a hearing on the 28th March 2013. It will be interesting to see if Jetstar will attend. To date they have not requested to have a representative on their behalf so I love to see who attend the hearing on behalf of Jetstar. Remember theuy are based in Victoria and I served the papers to their headoffice in Victoria but the case in heard in Brisbane.
Wish me luck. I will update this site after the hearing on 28 March.