Qantas makes 78-year-old man give up business class seat for off-duty pilot on flight

Experience of being downgraded was ‘unsettling’, said passenger

Helen Coffey
Thursday 07 September 2023 09:41 BST

Related video: Qantas Airways CEO Steps Down Early, First Female CEO to Take Over

A 78-year-old man was forced to give up his business class seat on a recent Qantas flight so that an off-duty pilot could take his place.

Stephen Jones was sitting in the business class lounge at Melbourne airport with his wife on 3 September when he heard his name over the tannoy, he told Australian radio station 3AW.

When he went to the Qantas desk, Mr Jones was told he’d been “bumped” because his seat was required by an off-duty pilot, whose contract stipulated he was entitled to travel in business class.

“It didn’t register at first,” he said. “I wasn’t quite sure what ‘bumped’ meant. She said, ‘I’ll have to reissue your ticket for economy class.’”

While Mr Jones said he understood that pilots are “entitled to rest and comfort”, he added that he found the experience of being bumped “unsettling and made me a little irritable.”

“I don’t think anything is going to change until there’s ramifications for Qantas when they upset their customers,” he added.

Qantas confirmed to 3AW that the incident had taken place, and said Mr Jones had been downgraded as there were no spare business class seats.

“We’ve apologised to the customer, and explained why the downgrade was necessary,” the Australian flag carrier said in a statement. “When this happens we provide customers with a partial refund.”

Mr Jones said he’d also been offered 5,000 frequent flyer miles.

It follows the news that easyJet prioritises its package holiday customers when selecting passengers to bump from an overbooked flight.

The policy came to light after The Independent began to investigate an incident in which an extended family was split up at Liverpool John Lennon airport.

An easyJet Holidays spokesperson confirmed to The Independent that “our ground staff are given guidance on which groups of customers to try and avoid selecting not to travel in the event where not enough volunteers come forward when an aircraft is downgraded, which includes a number of groups like those requiring special assistance and, where possible, easyJet Holidays customers.”

The policy of prioritising easyJet Holidays customers increases the chances of flight-only passengers, or those booked with other tour operators, being denied boarding.

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