Over the past year, it feels like I’ve spent more time in the air than on the ground. Of that time spent among the clouds, I’ve had two exceptional experiences. The first was from Seattle to Iceland on Icelandair and most recently from Dallas to Sydney on Qantas Airlines (QA). Most flights I’ve taken have been fairly standard with few frustrations save for the occasional screaming baby. The point is that when an airline provides great service, I will take the opportunity to recognize a job well done.
On one of QA’s Boeing 747 aircrafts, I made the long haul from Dallas to Brisbane to Sydney. With a $700 ticket and 20 hours in transit, I’m so thankful the crew made the flight as comfortable as possible. Unknowingly, I landed myself a neon green, cushioned window seat which meant I could rest my head against the wall and wouldn’t be woken up by passersby, and with nobody in the middle seat, I had room to stretch out. With the cabin lights off, sleeping mask on, and little disturbance from flight attendants, I slept [somewhat peacefully] for 8 hours with a heavy duty blanket and the fluffiest plane pillow (seriously top notch). For those of you who know of or own a Muji pillow, they were just like that but travel size. I’m willing to bet that the people who flew first class had the best sleep on a flight ever.
To keep occupied for the remaining 12 hours, I plowed through the variety of movies and television choices accompanied by more food than I was hungry for. Chicken Tikka Masala was served for dinner, snack bags were handed out with water, chips, chocolates, and a nutrigrain bar, hot breakfast came towards the end of the flight with eggs, potatoes, bacon, and yogurt, and finally, hot apple strudel. Though plane food is rarely anything to brag about, I was quite impressed with the selection.
Throughout the ride, the cabin crew were extremely helpful, polite, and had an enjoyable sense of humor. It was a nice change from those flight attendants who fake being nice or scrape by on acceptable [but not exceptional] service. To top it all off, as the flight began to descend, I opened my window shade to let the sun peek through, and below, I was greeted with the most stunning aerial view of Sydney with the Harbour Bridge and Opera House marking the edges of the water.
Flying with QA was another reminder at how far U.S. airlines have yet to come, in terms of service and comfort. If I ever get a chance to go to Australia again, you can bet I’ll be flying with Qantas.
Bonus: Why You Shouldn’t Use FareGeek.com
Flights are the most costly travel expense, so when it comes to spending my own money on flying across the world, I want the assurance that I’m buying from an online agency that will minimize risk. Should there be delays, cancellations, questions or concerns, there needs to be a a robust customer service team ready to address them and assist me with anything I might need, right?
FareGeek.com is not one of those agencies. Six hours before my flight to Sydney was scheduled to depart, I went online to check in and got word from Qantas Airlines that one or more of my flights had been cancelled. Imagine my glee, especially after my long-winded struggle to get to Australia. After waiting on hold for 20 minutes to talk to a Qantas operator and explaining my dilemma, the kind woman on the other end of the phone said I’d have to call the company through which I booked my flight and ask them to reissue my tickets. None of my flights had been cancelled but simply, the flight numbers had changed. No sweat, right? Well, to my surprise, FareGeek’s customer service exists in the form of one answering machine with a promise to call back within 24 hours or email with a response time of 10 minutes. That’s what it says on their website anyway. Well, by 10 minutes, they really mean 4 hours which can seem like a lifetime, if you have a crisis.
I figured leaving a voicemail wouldn’t initiate the quick response I wanted so instead, I bombarded their email inbox with borderline threatening emails explaining my situation and questioning why I wasn’t notified by them about the changes and automatically reissued new tickets. While I was impatiently waiting to hear back from them, I went online to search for reviews, something I should’ve done before booking with them, I know. One bad review after another came up (example) with similar complaints about poor customer service, and it seemed like FareGeek.com was only in the business of selling plane tickets and nothing more. My stomach sank, and I jumped to the worst possible conclusion. “So that’s it. I’m not going to Australia.”
Two hours before I had to leave for the airport, I got a one-sentence email back from their “CEO” stating that my tickets had been reissued. I sat back and laughed at the absurdity of the whole situation. In disbelief after a rough morning, I was clear to fly to Australia. Hallelujah!
So, given how frequently flight delays and cancellations occur, the low rates that FareGeek.com offer are not worth the risk of buying without the assurance of customer service to back you up. Needless to say, they won’t be getting my business again. In sum, two thumbs up for Qantas Airlines and two thumbs down for FareGeek.com.