Qantas Practices New Sleep Deprivation Tactics – On Me

March 6, 2011

in Delay/Cancellation Stories

Qantas Airways (Australia’s market leader) is obviously doing so well in the travel business, it’s decided to move in on the lucrative ‘torture of suspects’ business as well.

Qantas’ opening foray into this market would appear to be the use of ‘sleep deprivation tactics’ and I was lucky enough to be one of the airline’s earliest recipients.

It started a couple of weeks back, when a work colleague and I had to make an overnight business trip to Brisbane, Queensland. The plan was to fly up around 5pm, collect some business colleagues in Brisbane, drive some 2 hours there and back to the Gold Coast (a resort area near Brisbane) for our dinner meeting, return late to our hotel (located near Brisbane Airport), then fly out very early the next morning (a 5.30am flight), so that, with the time difference (Brisbane is one hour behind Sydney, where we both work), we could still be at our office for meetings by 9am.

Obviously, as you may have guessed by now, Qantas ensured it was not to be.

But it’s the details of Qantas’ torture tactics that are where the real fun lies.

To make a 5.30am flight out of Brisbane from our hotel (about 10 mins’ drive from the airport), required us to be up by about 4am – enough time to check out, get to the airport, return our hire car, and check in by no later than 30 mins before the flight’s departure.

But at 3.30am, my cellphone started ringing. It was Qantas, to tell me our flight had been cancelled (I stop to ask what would have happened if I was a heavy sleeper and missed the call? Or like many people, had turned my phone off? Presumably, the airline would have said that was my fault, and made me buy new tickets. But that’s another story…).

Qantas’ automated service gave me an emergency phone number to call, with a promise I’d be urgently put on the next available flight.

So I called – and the ‘urgent’ phone number kept me on hold for – seriously – 45 MINUTES. AT 3.30AM IN THE FREAKING MORNING! (The cellphone charge for 45 mins on hold was also huge, but, again, is just another delightful by-product of Qantas’ “customer service”…)

So, I was wide awake, for no reason (they’d cancelled my flight, remember), on hold, from 3.30am til about 4.15am when I finally got through.

Why was I on hold so long? Because, of course, Qantas didn’t want to spend money on phone operators for graveyard hours like 3.30am – except of course they’d just cancelled a flight, meaning there were probably 250 people in my position, trying to get on a flight via the same phone number, manned, probably, by just one lone person.

The Qantas guy came on the phone (at 4.15am, remember) and told me he could have gotten me on the 5.15am flight out of Brisbane, except that I’d never make the flight on time and they wouldn’t hold it for me.

I pointed out to him the reason I wouldn’t make the flight at 5.15am was that, instead of showering and packing, I had been on hold waiting for him for 45 minutes.

Too bad, I was told – they’d have to put me on a later flight – like 7.45am, and he hung up. No apologies, no meaningful explanation, nothing.

Needless to say, it was now about 4.30am, I had to be up again in about an hour, and couldn’t get back to sleep anyway – knowing that I’d now be keeping colleagues at my office in Sydney waiting for at least an hour.

So, after a while, my colleague and I headed to the airport.

But was it over? Not by a long shot…

Because, no sooner had I texted my colleagues in Sydney to let them know I was going to be there by 10am (not 9am), then I hit the airport, to be told by Qantas that my 7.45AM FLIGHT HAD BEEN DELAYED! Now it wasn’t leaving until about 8.30am.

I tried to stay calm, and texted my Sydney colleagues again to let them know I’d be later still.


Another text to colleagues, who by now were probably starting to wonder if I was deranged. It was too late anyway – they had made plans to get something else done first thing in the morning, and would meet me later at the office. The day was getting away from me, all thanks to my friends at the airline.

In due course, we got on the plane. The 8.15am one. (Not to be confused with the cancelled 5.30am one; the 5.15am one that, somehow, it was my fault I wouldn’t be able to catch; or the 7.45am one that was delayed to 8.30am. Just so we’re clear).

And once we were on the 8.15am flight… and buckled in… and sitting comfortably… and cellphones had been turned off… they sprung it on us – THE 8.15AM FLIGHT WAS DELAYED AND WOULDN’T BE LEAVING TIL ABOUT 8.45AM (later than the 7.45am one Qantas had initially re-booked us on, but which had been delayed to 8.30am, remember).

I got to Sydney by about 11am, and to my office by about midday.

My colleagues had been screwed around by about 3 hours. I was exhausted (kept awake by Qantas from 3.30am, remember); and furious (booked or re-booked on no less than 5 flights). The day was a disaster.

And, to this day, no apology from Qantas, nor explanation (except, perhaps, as I’ve said, that I’m somehow involved with suspect activities necessitating sleep deprivation torture, but just haven’t been informed of the charges yet).

I guess it could have been worse – I could have been flying with Qantas’ notoriously awful low fare offshoot Jetstar (the one WITH the reputation for crappy service, God help us); or Singapore’s appalling low fare carrier Tiger Airways (again, a nightmare reputation in Australia for its delightful practice of refusing to refund passengers for flights that it has cancelled, unless you complain to a regulatory authority, in which case they pay up straight away. Funny that). Or Virgin Blue (Australia’s Virgin brand low fare offshoot that, these days, can’t get a flight away on time to save itself).

But, as I say, those are all other stories.

Thanks for reading and greetings from Camp X-Ray the Australian air travel market.

Signed – Higherthanexpectedcallvolumes
My website:

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Mel March 6, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Hilarious. What torture! Had to laugh at the final insult of earlier flight leaving later.


char March 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm

So let me get this straight- you had to get up a half hour earlier than you planned, and you care WAY too much about what your colleagues think of you. Maybe you should learn to roll with the punches a bit, you can't control everything. This does NOT sound like a flight from Hell, not even close. Lame.


Higherthanexpected March 7, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Hey – it was stressful to me, man. YOU try being put on then booted off 5 separate flights in a 4 hours period. God knows what terrible flights you've been on that this seemed lame!


Hugh March 8, 2011 at 5:24 am

I have to agree with char…grow up and put on your big girl panties.


D-Money March 8, 2011 at 7:39 am

Boohoo, if I woke up at 3:30am, I’d be an hour late for work.


Higherthanexpected March 8, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Oh come guys, gimme a break. It was a major pain in the butt. Have you been rescheduled on more flights (5) in 3 hours before? Hadn't happened to me.


Hugh March 9, 2011 at 5:23 am

Pain in the butt, sure it was, but all things considered you ended up only a couple of hours later than originally planned. Never schedule business so close to a flights projected schedule, it a recipe for disaster.


Higherthanexpected March 9, 2011 at 6:41 am

@Hugh – yep, agree, lesson learned. But it shouldn't be like this – that we customers should have to schedule for the airlines' incompetence. If our clients had to plan for our ineptitude like that, we'd be out of our jobs.


aaron March 10, 2011 at 10:22 am

It is an all's well that ends well kind of story, but going through the process is certainly hell. Getting up that early is painful just to catch a flight with no hiccups. Having to negotiate rebooking etc. with little sleep at 3:30AM is hell.


Frequent Flyer March 15, 2011 at 12:55 pm

How is it the airline's fault that you called back on your cellphone? You could have used the hotel phone which would have been a local call to a 13 number.

Also, trying to fly on the morning of to get to meeting by 9am in Sydney is a tad optimistic, if it was so important that you arrive then allow more time.

It's also not "ineptitude' to be late- unlike offices, airlines are subject to weather, air traffic and yes occasionally mechanical delays, or in the case of Sydney- curfews the prior night which is a totally possible reason why your morning flight was cancelled. Sometimes airlines have no choice but to cancel a flight for legally required reasons- I as a frequent flyer have taken the time to talk with airline staff and had some good reasons explained to me for why these things happen, even if it's not apparent to me. As stated above, learn to roll with it man.

(At least you acknowledge that Tiger et all are worse, they sure are!)

Invonvenient, yes. A flight from hell, no.


Higherthanexpected March 17, 2011 at 5:05 am

Hi. 1. The hotel phone charged by time (as many hotel phones do), cellphone was as logical an option – it is unarguably the airline's fault when they keep passengers on hold for 45 mins. If you think that is, even arguably, reasonable, I simply must disagree.

2. It is not optimistic to aim to be somewhere based on the assumption the airline will not behave incompetently – the reason airlines cancel flights (in this case, apparently, for no good reason – since they couldn't offer one) is because of passengers like you – who apologise for airlines' ineptitude (that's what it is) and continue to fly with them, and instead waste your energy attacking other passengers who complain about crap service.


Bob April 11, 2011 at 3:14 pm



George McCall April 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Qantas does not have any flights from Brisbane to Sydney leaving earlier than 9 o’clock hour. Also, Brisbane is the same time zone as Sydney.


Dilberto January 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm

No – during summer time (Daylight savings), Queensland (Brisbane) is ONE HOUR behind the eastern Australian states.


SydneyGuy January 21, 2012 at 6:49 am

Agreed with Dilberto. During Australian Eastern Standard Daylight Savings Time, Queensland remains on Australian Eastern Standard Time, an hour behind NSW, VIC, the ACT and TAS.


jason January 30, 2012 at 7:51 am

qantas has a number of flights that leave from brisbane to sydney and brisbane to melbourne.

as an example there are a bunch of flights leaving starting 5am.

it's really strange george to think about an airline _not_ being able to get you to another capital city _before_ standard business hours.


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