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A Qantas Experience

When the staff go bad

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Here's the text of an email I wrote to Qantas customer care (I've replaced a name with an X) after they asked me to describe my recent experience with them.
Their reply follows.

Dear Ms Morris,

My "recent experience" was abuse and bullying by Qantas staff on a long haul flight, which left my two year old in tears, on two separate occasions.

My crime was to take my little girl into the toilet immediately in front of our seats and sit her next to the sink so she could play with a cup in a basin of water. She enjoys doing that and she was already extremely tired and distressed as the flight had been delayed for 4 hours, and the take off from Bangkok had hurt her ears and sinuses. There is nothing to do for children on a Qantas long haul flight. We had the door open the whole time, so we could vacate immediately if someone wanted to use the toilet, and so that the engaged light would not come on in the cabin.

There was no sign that I could see saying business class passengers were barred from the toilet. It was adjacent to business class, with a galley, and with the entrance to the plane, between it and first class. There were no passengers in sight.

A steward came and very brusquely told me to get out of the toilet as it was for first class passengers only. I said I hadn’t realised that but that I was just playing with my daughter and would of course vacate as soon as anyone wanted to use it. He came back instantly and said first class passengers would complain and that he did not "need that". He startled my daughter so much that she slipped and caught her elbow on the edge of the sink, even though I was holding her by the waist. She began crying which made no difference to this steward. I came out of the toilet and said I hoped he was happy now that he’d caused a little girl to be in tears.

He said: “Oh f*'` off”

I said I did not want to be spoken to like that and he said: “Get out of my face”.

I said I wanted to make a complaint and asked his name. He refused point blank to give me his name despite my asking him several times. I said he was a big man and he must be very proud of himself. He said: “go complain to the boss”. I told him to go and get “the boss” and he said: “Are you serious?”, as if I was a total idiot making something out of nothing. I said I was serious and he left, with the demeanour of a man spoiling for a fight in a bar.
I sat down to console my daughter.

A little later the boss appeared and immediately, without asking what had happened, went into forceful and strenuous denials about what his colleague had said.
“I’ve known him 20 years and he would not use that kind of language”.
I said that he had used that language and this man, the boss, then stood inches from my face and said: “I choose not to believe you” over and over again. I was still carrying my two year old.

I said: “Where is he?” and went into the galley to find the original culprit. I said he was a gutless coward to lie to his boss and send him out to bat for him on that basis. That what he had said was complete BS and he knew it. He shouted something I didn’t hear properly and his boss put his arm across to restrain him and told him to keep his voice down.

I went back to my seat. Later the boss found me again, and again he started his denials, asking me why his colleague would say such a thing? By now my daughter was crying again. I said I was terminating the conversation, that I wanted their names and that I am not a liar.

This subsequent harrassment and bullying, trying to get me to withdraw my complaint and insisting that I was a liar, was as aggravating, if not more so, than the original abuse.

Several hours later the boss appeared with a piece of paper carrying the name X. I took that to be the name of the steward who had sworn at me.

When we disembarked at Heathrow I saw X on the way out. As I pointed him out to my wife, who had been upset that our daughter had been in tears, he smirked and shook his head at me, tutting, as if he held me in contempt.

The flight was QF1 and the date of departure from Sydney was Dec 15th, the offending staff were on the Bangkok-London leg.

Alan Davies
Dear Mr Davies
I refer to your email dated 19 December 2011 and your allegation of harassment and bullying by Qantas staff. I apologise that we were not able to respond in detail more quickly but since Qantas takes this allegation very seriously we have taken the time to enquire into the matter with the relevant staff. Our staff concur that the situation arose as a result of your use of the First Class facilities to entertain your child and your refusal to vacate the facilities when first asked to do so.
While Qantas values your custom on the many flights you have taken with us over 20 years, we hope that you would understand that our First Class customers have a reasonable expectation that we will ensure the facilities they have paid for are available exclusively for them.
We are sorry that you felt you were not treated fairly but having spoken to the staff concerned we do not propose to take this further. 

Yours sincerely 

Fiona Morris
Executive Relations Manager 
Customer Care 
Qantas Airways Ltd 
Address: QCE3 203 Coward Street | Mascot NSW 2020 

Posted by AlanDavies 04:34 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney london bangkok flights qantas

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Clearly Pictureof, you didn't read the text that was posted, rather simply took the side of the airline.

A) He didn't know it was the first class toilet.

B) I'm sure that if he had been asked nicely to vacate it, he most likely would have.

This should have been the end of the situation. Instead, he was met with hostility, rudeness, and coarse language.

I will state here that I am from Australia, and I hope that this particular experience does not stop people coming to my fine country, but I side with the traveler on this one. There is no cause to be rude or aggressive (which is how the staff come across).

And Pictureof, stating that "I can't say I wouldn't have done the same" merely makes me think that you are a rude person, who has never worked in a customer service industry. If you have a customer doing the wrong thing, you don't swear at them, and you definitely DON'T swear in front of children.

by Lunamonkey

So you've removed the opinions that don't support your position. Just further goes to indicate that you're not conveying a balanced account of what happened.

You're an attention grabbing individual happy to publicly continue to attack an air steward who had a bad day. No doubt you will not be happy until he loses his job and his life spirals into turmoil. So actually it's you who is the "big man", the celeb who takes on the steward just trying to do his job on a wage that is no doubt 2-3% of what you earn.

I am sorry that your daughter was upset but not as upset as I am when she's a bit older and realises her dads not a very nice person.

by fiddlesticks

Fiddlesticks - whoever you are,
I removed comments that were insulting to me personally. That's the nice thing about a blog like this, if people call you a moron or are generally rude you can consign them to the bin.
In your earlier posts, in between the insults, you said you had 20 years experience in customer services. I'm sorry for you, having to deal with complaints for so long must have a lasting effect. I'm also very sorry for the customers .
I have never named the steward who told me to f*** off. Had I done so he would have had a very difficult time with journalists asking questions and his name in the papers. I know what it's like to have the press on your back and I did not want that to happen.
So you are entirely wrong to say that I would be happy if he lost his job.
He should have been reprimanded at least and maybe he feared being fired, maybe he secretly wishes they would fire him, if the pay is as bad as you intimate it is.
My account of what happened is as balanced as I can make it. I only have the one memory. The only other person present, other than my crying two year old, was the steward in question, who immediately lied about the incident to his superior. This is proof that his version can't be trusted. I don't blame him, he knew he'd messed up. He was appallingly rude and it was inexcusable. They were a new crew who had joined at Bangkok and were just starting a shift, so fatigue or having a bad day won't cut it as an excuse.
Qantas are condoning the steward's behaviour by taking no action.
They are saying: "it's ok to tell a customer to f*** off, don't worry we'll back you".
I don't feel that's a good attitude and I'm using the internet, openly, truthfully, using my own name, and taking no end of abuse from anonymous strangers like you who would be better off sitting down and working out what it is you're really angry about, because it can't possibly be me.

by AlanDavies

Alan, I am not a celeb, I am now retired from commercial life.
However, as an ex Quantas first class passenger on the very same flight number that you were on I also experienced unacceptable behaviour on the second leg of the journey.
As in your case, the folks at Quantas did not want to know.
I never flew with them again.
Assuming that you have no reason to invent your recounting of events I applaud you for taking the time to make this incident public. Only by so doing will we (customers) ever achieve the status and respect we are entitled to expect for the money we have spent - or indeed, sheer common courtesy from those whose job it is to supply the service we have paid for.
More power to your elbow Alan.

by Jayadee

Alan, you're right I shouldn't have insulted you personally and for that I apologise. I just think you should drop it.

The guy made a mistake, a mistake which he can't admit to for fear of losing his job. Given he has covered his tracks Qantas have no choice but to support their employee. You shouldn't have been there and you refused to move. The only other outcome here is if the steward admits what he said and he probably loses his job. You've said you don't want that to happen so I think you should let it go. That's my only point.

by fiddlesticks

Fiddlesticks. An air steward who works in first class should not have to focus too hard on his job to avoid saying f*** o** to a customer, whether they be first class, business class or cattle class. In my mind, someone who slips up like that deserves to receive a severe warning, if not loss of job. ...... and it doesn't take a person with a degree in customer care to appreciate that, following a complaint, the customer being told they are not believed, it wholey unacceptable. A customer who complains should walk away happy that the matter is being addressed, not fuming a week later.

by Betsy74

The steward should not have told you to 'fuck off' and should be disciplined for that.

But I don't think you come across well in this.

You say that there is nothing for children to do on a Quantas longhaul flight. Quantas do provide an activity pack for children 3 and above. Apart from that, what exactly do you expect them to provide? As far as I'm aware, other airlines are hardly providing soft play areas or children's entertainers on their longhaul flights. Longhaul flights are inherently boring and painful for small children - be it with Quantas or another carrier. Movies and computer gaimes provided by the entertainment service might occupy 7 year olds, but 2 year olds, not so much. So this point you're making is rather petulant. It is your job as a parent to entertain your child, not the airline's. And there is frankly only so much entertaining you can do for a 2 year old in an enclosed space for a long period of time.

I find it quite hard to believe that you were unaware the toilet was in first class. Most unusual for there not to be a clear divider between classes. Air NewZealand are fabulous with small children on longhaul, but even they get a bit stern when toddlers make a break for business class from economy, or from business to first. Airlines just are very strict about keeping you out of the class above.

Fair enough you were planning on vacating the toilet if someone came to use it, but why didn't you do so immediately when the steward made it clear they were for first class passengers only? Why put another passenger - who has paid for first class services unlike yourself - in the position of having to ask a 2 year old to stop the game she's enjoying?

I do hope you get this resolved. I don't think the employee deserves to be sacked unless he has prior disciplinary offences. But he does derserve a warning.

by Armadillo

I, personally, do not think that your arguments detract from an employee, indeed any employee, from telling a customer to f*** o**. If I was the employer, I would obviously listen to both sides, but I would take the matter far more seriously. If I did not believe the customer, I would not respond in the above way. The customers experience is first and foremost and I would apologise for that......I happen to believe Alan (again, my opinion). I think his complaint is very simple. I would be extremely shocked to be spoken to in that way with or without a toddler in tow. The way that the complaint has been dealt with would exasperate me. Actually makes me extremely cross that a company of this standing have behaved so appallingly . The act was unprofessional to say the least, and the response is little more. The airline should use this complaint to better themselves not simply admonish all responsibility....I would think better of them if they just took it on the chin............and for the record, perhaps they should start thinking about the customers they have with under 3s. If they didn't cater for elderly customers there'd be outrage.....and under3s are far more likely on their flights........and catering for such an age group, would ease the enjoyment of people without children. 33 hour flight + 4 hour delay.....To me, Alan was showing what a good attentive father he is by using the resources available!

by Betsy74

..........if I was in charge at Qantas, heads would be rolling now. I would be going out and out to sort this matter out appropriately. The fact that Alan is a celebrity has brought the matter to the forefront, which is a good thing. He is, by labouring his dismay, hopefully, paving the way for a better experience for future travellers. A non celebrities complaint is far easier to sweep under the carpet as they are clearly happy to do. They should be tearing their hair out now. It has, from my reading highlighted the generally low standards provided by the airline. .......sorry. I know it's not my problem but their response would send me absolutely loopy.

by Betsy74

This issue revolves around an abusive staff member and not the alleged past conduct of the customer. The steward chose his job and agreed on his wage. If he can't interract appropriately with the general public, he's in the wrong job. Not even his boss stepped in to diffuse the situation to the customer's satisfaction. Epic fail.

Take Alan Davies out of the equation and put in a huge hairy man built like a brick shithouse. I wonder what the outcome would have been then. The idea that a celebrity should back off and be grateful for their good fortune, rather than be offended by abusive staff, is beyond me. Would they really be prepared to air the whole affair in public, and attract even more abuse, if their accusations were unfounded?

Here we have a decent family man who decided to take his family to the other side of the world so they could all be together while he worked. He didn't leave them at home so he could swan off unladen. Okay, he was in the wrong toilet (crime of the century), but the member of staff's reaction to the situation was far too abusive to be ignored...whatever the crime.

I have a two year old daughter and I empathize totally with Alan Davies. It's hard enough to keep her entertained at home with all her own toys around her, let alone stuck in a plane seat for hours on end. No amount of drawing books or cartoons will calm her down once she's decided she's bored.


by LiquidJacket


Having worked with the general public my whole life, I have no sympathy whatsoever with the steward. If you choose to work in such an environment, you should be prepared to earn your money by keeping your cool and trying your hardest to keep the customer happy. That is what you're being paid for and it's really not difficult to do...if you're the right person for the job.

When I worked at a major holiday park, even members of staff from the main reception would be rude and abusive to holiday-makers. They would say, ''Well, it's not like we're ever going to see them again.''. I would reply, ''No...that's right, because they'll never come here again!''.

Qantas should at least remove the steward from his duties and put him through some rigorous customer service training. His boss could probably benefit from it too. I don't care how old they are, or how much experience they feel they've gained. Somewhere along the line, the fundamental customer service skills they should be using every day have been forgotten. If this guy is not reprimanded, I will assume Qantas is not concerned with pleasing its customers and only with covering up the mistakes of terribly abusive staff members.

by LiquidJacket

If I were you, Alan, I would let the whole matter fizzle out. I'm sure Qantas will help by doing nothing.

Chill out with your family. They are the most valuable critics you'll ever have. If they're happy...stuff everyone else.

by LiquidJacket

Alan, someone just played this to me
It is one of the most unpleasant vitriolic things I've heard especially given the abuse he is getting at the moment.

So I retract my apology due to your mindblowing hypocracy.

I'm glad to hear that your woeful sitcom has been cancelled and hopefully the bbc are beginning to realise what a growing number of members of the public are - you're just not funny and apart from your silly hair you are devoid of talent. Removing you from QI would be like removing a cancer from an otherwise healthy organ.

I've also been thinking about what you said. I am angry at your vindictive quest to destroy this steward. I reckon that you probably deserved to be told to f off and now you want to use the fact you are high profile to exact your revenge.

Many of these other posters seem to miss the point that you were being obstructive and refused to move. Ok so he shouldn't of sworn but you should have moved, quits, why do you have to try so hard to get him sacked?

by fiddlesticks

Merry Christmas though...

by fiddlesticks

If the guy is happy to swear at one customer, it's very likely he wouldn't think twice about swearing at another...and another...and another. Given the numerous problema that can arise on airlines with disgruntled customers, this is probably a small example of his overall behaviour.

by LiquidJacket

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