Friday, April 29, 2011

Qantas: the Fillet of Australia?

I hate to be somewhat moronic here and spin a droll comment on a corporate logo - that's done enough in this world on cantankerous blogs as much as in the 'professional' media.

It's also a bit passe. But I'm a little angry, and whether or not a concept is old hat or not doesn't really swing for me at the moment.

The thing is, if Qantas truly is the Spirit of Australia, then the email I just got from them is a sad state of affairs and makes me ponder swapping citizenship.

Regardless of whether or not you've read anything else in these pages, most people would know about the March 11 earthquake in the Tōhoku region of Japan, and the resultant aftershocks and problems with the Fukushima nuclear power plants.

Obviously these have been of a tiny bit of concern to even those of us here in Tokyo, though we're 230km away; the water supply was briefly (and marginally) effected by radiation, and while things now seem to be coming under control, for a few weeks there no one knew what to expect.

During that time my family and I discussed options, including the possible need to fly out of the country.

I've been a member of Qantas Frequent Flyers since the mid 1990s, and a Qantas aficionado since flying as a wee tacker with the old TAA domestic airline in the 1970s (it was incorporated into Qantas). In English lessons I teach, Qantas occasionally comes up and in those moments I've got all star-struck and proudly mentioned the airline's longevity (it's the third oldest in the world), good safety record and the origin of its acronym (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services).

So, being a bit of a fan and veteran frequent flyer, I decided to check how many points I had on my Qantas account - and discovered there were zero.

This was news to me. If they don't want to pay postage costs to Japan (and fair enough to), then the company could at least email me (free) to advise that they're deleting in excess of 10,000 frequent flyer points, with a reason as to why.

But I'd heard nothing.

Being a long-time customer, a fellow Aussie, and in a potentially diabolical situation, I wrote to Qantas early on in April as follows:

Dear Sir/Madam,

This is Andrew Bergen, an Australian based in Tokyo, Japan, for 10 years now. I hope you can help me to sort out a matter of surprise and relative discomfort.

I have been a long-time member your Qantas Frequent Flyer program, and while I may not fly so regularly now (I have a young family with a five-year-old daughter), we are preparing ourselves for the worst here in Japan, and looking at flying out if the situation with the nuclear reactors happens to worsen.

I was under the impression that I had 10,000+ points on in my Frequent Flyer account, but when I checked just now it appears that I now zero points - because 10,169 points were deducted from my account on 28 February 2010, but I was not warned about this in advance, or otherwise advised of the deduction, until I checked today.

Is there some time limit imposed on points? I wasn't aware of any expiration date on points.

And in the circumstances, would it be possible to waive such time limits? These points would certainly help us (in a small way) to pay for the three tickets we will need to leave Japan in an emergency.

I hope you can help us further,

All the best,
Andrew Bergen

Almost two weeks passed before I received the courtesy of a reply, so I'm grateful that the reactors up north have been as patient as we have.

Unfortunately it wasn't quite what I'd hope to hear. While I'm no stranger to bureaucratic corporate policy trumping basic human decency, it's still sad to see long-time loyalty to a huge, profitable company respected... with nothing at all except a notion of brushed-off indifference:

Dear Mr Bergen,

Thank you for contacting The Qantas Club and Frequent Flyer Service Centre.

I'm unable to reinstate your points that expired in February 2010.

Your points expired because there wasnt any activity on your account over a three-year period. We make every effort to let our members know the status of their points through their online Activity Statements.

If youd like to know more about the Frequent Flyer program, please visit where youll find full details of your membership benefits, along with our latest news and offers.

The Spirit Of Australia my arse - and for god's sake get a spell-checker next time you mail me.

Coincidentally, two days ago I lost a few cards while on my way to work in Kanagawa. One of those cards was my worn out old Qantas Frequent Flyer Card.

To whomsoever finds it: keep the thing. Souvenir it. I don't need the card now, and certainly won't be replacing it.


Japan-Australia said...

I'm not a big fan of Qantas despite being an Aussie and their safety record. I have had some really bad experiences with them and there have been having a lot of problems over the last few years.

Japan Australia

What's the plot, anyway? said...

Probably karma! ;)
I know big businesses are all about profit-making and mark-ups these days, but don't these corporations realize that "old fashioned" concepts of empathy and solidarity actually might turn a profit as well? Bah, humbug.

Anonymous said...

Get over yourself. When you join QFF, you’re told that points expire after three years of inactivity. This isn’t just in the Terms of Service (which you should read anyway), but also on the signup form. To my knowledge, QANTAS have one of the most generous expiry limits in the industry, and if you fail to read the conditions of membership, you’ve no-one else to blame.