A 78-year-old man was downgraded from Qantas' business class so an off-duty pilot could take his seat
- Stephen Jones, 78, said he was downgraded from his business-class seat on a Qantas flight.
- The airline said an off-duty pilot would take his seat instead, he told the Australian radio station 3AW.
Qantas Airways downgraded a man from business class so that an off-duty pilot could take his seat, the man told Australian radio station 3AW.
In an interview published September 5, Stephen Jones, 78, told the outlet he and his wife were sitting in a business-class lounge in the airport of Melbourne, Australia, two days prior when he heard his name called over the intercom. About 30 minutes before his flight was set to leave for Adelaide, an employee told him he'd been "bumped."
"It didn't register at first," Jones told 3AW. "I wasn't quite sure what 'bumped' meant. She said, 'I'll have to reissue your ticket for economy class.'"
The employee told him that an off-duty Qantas pilot would take his seat, as flying business-class was part of his contract, Jones said to 3AW. Qantas confirmed to Insider on September 6 that Jones was bumped from first class to economy because there were no business-class seats left.
"As part of their enterprise agreement, pilots that are flying to another city to then operate flights are to be provided with a seat in Business," the airline's statement read.
"We understand this was a negative experience and have contacted Mr Jones to apologise and explain why the downgrade was necessary," the statement continued. A representative said Jones was offered "a partial refund, flight credit and frequent flyer points."
Jones confirmed to the radio station he'd been offered 5,000 frequent-flyer miles as part of his compensation. He told 3AW that while he understood pilots are "entitled to rest and comfort" on their way to their next flight, the incident was "unsettling and made me a little irritable."
Justin Lawrence, a partner at Henderson Ball Lawyers, later told 3AW that getting downgraded isn't uncommon.
"Unfortunately, their terms of carriage allow them to do this sort of thing," Lawrence told 3AW. "This happens so often they've actually got a term for it — buckle up — they call this 'involuntary downgrading.'"
This is the most recent scrutiny that Qantas has faced. As Insider previously reported, the airline faced backlash after selling tickets for thousands of flights that had already been canceled. On August 31, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced that it was taking the airline to court and seeking "hundreds of millions of dollars" in fines.
After the lawsuit was announced, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said he'd be stepping down.
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