Two Kiwis have successfully battled Qantas for a refund of their flights after claiming their plane seats were wet with a previous passenger’s urine.
According to the Wellington-based couple, the incident took place on the first leg of their return journey; a 9-hour flight from Bangkok to Sydney on December 30.
Issues began when the pair took their seats and one placed his Qantas pillow, along with other belongings on the floor, under the seat in front of him. When he picked the pillow up again, the was “wet and stained on one side”.
A duty-free bag with $70 worth of items, a headphone case and a travel neck pillow also appeared wet. The couple assumed it was water, so they stored the duty-free bag in the overhead bin, brushed off the head pillow to use for the flight and called a flight attendant over to replace the Qantas pillow.
“We called an attendant who was confused and took the pillow away,” they said.
The situation took a more disturbing turn towards the end of the flight when one traveller reached under the seat in front and found a pair of children’s underwear. The discovery led the couple to believe it had not been water on the floor but urine.
“Now we know that we have been sitting in urine for a 10-hour trip,” one traveller said.
“And the travel neck pillow, well, I had been using that for the last couple of hours, under the assumption it was just a bit wet from water.”
This was later thrown away, along with the duty-free bag and its contents.
They called a flight attendant, who took the underwear and said she would speak to her supervisor about the incident. The supervisor allegedly offered the couple 10,000 Qantas points; something they were not interested in as it “does not make up for the fact we were sitting in biohazard waste”.
What they did want was their money back but Qantas refused.
“I understand that due to inconvenience experience you want to request for a refund of flight,” read an email to the couple, sent on January 10. “However, we regret that we’re unable to meet your request as the ticket was fully utilised.”
In a heated reply back to Qantas, the couple said the situation was “simply unacceptable” and demanded a refund of $3827.95; the cost of the Bangkok-Sydney leg.
“We want refunded this leg of the flight at least,” they stated, adding that points were useless as they did not want to fly with Qantas again.
While they acknowledged that the urine was likely the fault of the contracted cleaning crew in Bangkok, Qantas was ultimately responsible.
“They are contracted through Qantas so it is your responsibility that you must own,” they wrote before noting that Qantas had recently recorded record profits and record complaints.
According to Qantas, international aircraft seats are vacuumed and surfaces disinfected between flights and have raised the issue with their cleaning supplier in Bangkok.
When approached for comment on January 12, Qantas said they would investigate the matter and speak to crew from the flight. On January 15, Qantas said they contacted the couple to apologise and offer compensation.
“We have apologised to the customer and will be providing a refund as a gesture of goodwill,” said a Qantas spokesperson.
The couple told the Herald they were disappointed it took such lengths to get the desired outcome, they were “really happy” about getting a full refund.
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