Monday Jan 29, 2024 Qantas experience from Melbourne to Mazatlan:
I was supposed to be traveling on a 14.5 hr flight from Melbourne to LA, then just over 2 hours layover in LA, followed by a direct 2.5 hour flight from LA to Mazatlan, Mexico - so around 20 hours total travel time. Ended up from arrival at Melbourne airport at 9:30 am Melbourne time Jan 29 (15:30 Maz time Jan 28) to landing in Mazatlan 12:02 pm Mazatlan time Jan 30 (6:02 am Melbourne time Jan 31) so 44.5 hours with next to no sleep (58 hours from Melbourne bed to Mazatlan bed) and the worst part is I missed a day of my vacation with my family who I haven't seen in almost a year.
How it actually went down:
I arrive at Melbourne airport 3 hours prior to departure, I've checked in online but can't get an online boarding pass (still not sure why, I'm assuming something to do with passport verification - but I've had that done at the gate many times with other airlines, and even with Qantas at other airports). I have no bags to check (carry-on only) but I still get pointed to the online check-in bag drop line, so I get in that queue.
Gripe #1: There's only ONE check-in counter open for the online check-in section for the first half an hour I'm in that line. They finally opened a second counter and I was through relatively quickly after that (but if they'd given me my boarding pass online or had boarding pass printers near the check-in counters I never would have had to get in that queue in the first place).
Next I head to security and customs, no issues there and I get through both quite quickly.
Gripe #2: I'm waiting patiently at my gate for boarding. I have not received ANY correspondence from Qantas. I'm starting to wonder why they haven't started boarding yet as the flights due to depart shortly. Suddenly I receive a message in the Qantas app saying the flights been delayed. Now, I get delays, s*** happens, HOWEVER, the incoming flight had been diverted to Sydney very early that morning so they would have known for MANY HOURS that the flight was going to be delayed and they gave us NO heads up.
I start to panic because I know I have a somewhat tight connection in LA so I call Qantas.
Gripe #3: They tell me the only options they have for a connection are a 23:59 departing flight from LA to Dallas with a 5 hour layover in Dallas and then a 2.5 hour flight to Mazatlan getting in around 12:30 in the afternoon the next day (nearly 24 hours later than I'm supposed to be arriving plus another red eye flight). I tell them no that's not acceptable and can they put me on the Aeromexico flight that leaves just after 1pm connecting in Mexico City and arriving in Mazatlan just after 10 pm same day, but they say no because it's not a partner airline. They then say well we can get you on the 10pm flight out of Melbourne (this is before noon and I'm sitting at the gate waiting to board), and I ask them how that's going to help as there's no connecting flights to Mazatlan the next day either. So I tell the person I'm on the phone with to just forget about it and I hope that either my Alaska Airlines connection will also be delayed or that Qantas will come up with a better solution for me while I'm in the air.
Gripe #4: We're kept out of the boarding lounge area for the Melbourne to LA flight until just before boarding, then we're passport checked and funneled into one small section and bottle-necked onto an escalator down to the actual gate. Most ridiculous set-up I've encountered and greatly increased boarding time for the plane (which was not even half full so should have been quick).
Gripe #5: There's no Wi-Fi on the flight so am unable to do any research or try to do anything from the air. I understand that it's an international flight but could they not have provided it for the portion we had to travel over Australia before heading over the Pacific?
We land in LA at 11:11 am (was supposed to be 7:50 am, so nearly 3.5 hours late).
Gripe #6: I check the Alaska Airlines flight and it has also been delayed (YAY I'm thinking) so I rush through customs and book it from terminal B to terminal 6, get through security and arrive at the boarding gate to see the doors still open for the flight but because Qantas had cancelled that portion mid-flight there was nothing Alaska could do to get me back on the flight. I tried calling Qantas (I had to pay the international fee to Boost first so I could use my cell phone in LA, so another $40 I wasn't anticipating having to spend to turn on cell service as I was only planning to use the airport Wi-Fi in LA) but they said no they can't get me back on that flight. So I got to stand there and watch my Mazatlán flight pull out from the gate and take off without me on it. I ask the Qantas agent again if they can get me on the Aeromexico flight that's departing in a couple hours via Mexico City and again they say no because they're not a "partner airline". The agent on the phone says there's no other options besides the one I've been given which is the 23:59 flight to Dallas with a 5 hour layover and then the 10:30 flight to Mazatlan the following day. I give up talking to the person on the phone and decide I'm going to go find a Qantas agent to speak to in person.
On my way back to terminal B I stumble across the American Airlines help desk so I wander in there to see if they can suggest a better flight option than what I've now been stuck with. The AA agent suggests a 16:20 or 19:20 flight from LA to Phoenix and then an 11:30am ish flight the following morning to Mazatlan, which would get me into Mazatlan an hour later than the Dallas flight would but at least I'd be able to get a hotel for the evening in Phoenix and get some sleep. The AA agent is unable to do anything on their end with my flights though because it's all booked through Qantas, but they write down all the flight numbers for me and I head off to find the Qantas desk. Oh yes but this also brings me to:
Gripe #7: the American Airlines agent informs me that Qantas hasn't actually booked me on a flight out of LAX to Dallas but out of Ontario airport (over an hour drive away in good traffic, and there's no such thing as good traffic in LA). The AA agent is able to change that for me in the system (oddly enough there were two flights departing and arriving at exactly the same time but out of the two separate airports). The AA agent is also able to check me in and print out my boarding passes for the Dallas flights but said to go find the Qantas desk and see if I could get it changed to the Phoenix flights.
Gripe #8: there's no specific Qantas desk at LAX. You have to wait at the check-in gate until check-in is open for any possible upcoming flight before you're able to see an agent.
I (finally) arrive at the Qantas check-in desk at around 13:40 after having wandered around the entire airport now for well over an hour (between the terminals and trying to find the desk etc). The sign over the counter says early check-in opens at 14:15, so I wait around for about 30 minutes. I'm second in line at the check-in so I'm pretty quick to see an agent, however they inform me I'm in the wrong line and for flight changes I'll have to go down to the very end line. I look over and see there's only one couple in front of me at that desk so figure it should be pretty quick. Boy was I wrong.
Gripe #9: I'm waiting behind this couple for about an hour, the person who is helping them keeps coming out to speak to them for a couple of minutes and then disappearing into the back room for 15-20 minutes at a time, over and over and over again (the couple also had issues with their connection, they were on the same incoming flight as me). During one of these extended agent absences, I walk up to the counter and strike up a conversation with the couple and ask them if the agent is ever coming back? The couple says yes but they don't know when because the agent has been doing this the whole time. The agent eventually comes back out and speaks with the couple for a couple minutes and then disappears AGAIN into the back room. This happens a couple more times. It is now about 16:15 so that first Phoenix flight I'd wanted to try to get on is now definitely not an option as it is departing in 5 minutes. The agent finally finishes up with the couple and they wander off to find something to eat and that particular agent tells me someone will be out to help me shortly and disappears into the back room again. A new agent comes out of the back and I explain my situation to them. They proceed to tell me that they are unable to do flight changes (despite that the other agent had just done flight changes for that couple in front of me) and that I'll have to go downstairs and speak to the "recheck" desk. I look at the agent and say, "I've been standing in this line for 2.5 hours is there really nothing you can do to help me?" And they say no and point me in the direction of the next level down. It's worth noting that at this point the lineup behind me is now around 20 people deep and growing rapidly, as Qantas had just had a flight diverted so an entire flights worth more people were now needing new connections.
So. I head down a level with one of the ladies who was in line behind me also looking to change her flight. We look everywhere and can't find this supposed "recheck" desk. I do however find an information desk. The person there was extremely helpful although they had no idea where this "recheck" desk was supposed to be, they did however have access to the paging system and proceeded to page a Qantas agent for us.
The Qantas agent shows up a few minutes later and we explain the situation to them. The agent informs us that no, there is no recheck desk on this level and we need to go back up to where we just were. I look at the agent and I'm about ready to burst into tears and say, "I just stood in that line for 2.5 hours and they said they couldn't help me, and now you're telling me I've got to go back and get in the same line???". They make a couple quick calls and then come back up with us to the line, tell us to wait a few minutes and then that agent also goes and disappears into the back room for another probably 15-20 minutes. Finally comes back out and tells us they've sorted a couple additional agents to fix up the flights and to go stand at the check-in desks just past the actual check-in lines and that a couple of people will be there shortly to help. So we go stand in another line. And some jerk who hadn't been waiting hours like I had decided to cut in front of me (I hope your plane had severe turbulence jerk). Anyways. So the agent from downstairs did at least get a couple more agents sorted to help with sorting the flights so thank you to the only Qantas agent up to this point that was actually helpful throughout all of this.
I should be out for dinner with my father in Mazatlán at this point but instead I'm still trying to deal with flight changes.
So I'm finally at the desk speaking with someone who has the ability to find me different flights, and I hand them the connections that the American Airlines agent had given me with the overnight in Phoenix and I say I'd like to get on these flights (there was a second flight from LA to PHX departing at 19:20 that I could have gotten on, with the 11ish am flight departing Pheonix to Mazatlan the next morning). This agent was also extremely helpful and did everything in their power to try and get me on that flight or any other flight connection they could think of (probably also because I was fully in tears at this point). They even looked up the Aeromexico flights for me but at this point since so much time had passed from my initial arrival in LA, nothing departing this evening would get me in any earlier than the Dallas connection. I would like to thank this agent for showing some compassion and for really trying their best to help me. However, since it had now been about 4 hours since I'd initially spoken with the American Airlines agent who had told me about the Phoenix flights, of course the Phoenix to Mazatlan leg is now sold out. So. After all the phone calls and the runaround and the waiting, I am stuck with that horrific red-eye to Dallas on to Mazatlan the following day having already not slept for around 28 hours. But hey we'll let you into the lounge so you can at least eat before the next flight (since I also had barely eaten anything in that 28 hours, the food on the Melbourne flight was decent but not enough after the initial 4 hour delay. I was STARVING when we finally got on the plane and when at long last they did serve us dinner the only thing left when they got to my row was a cold chicken salad. Not even a chunk of bread left to go with it. The salad tasted good but it was definitely not enough food).
You'd think after all this that nothing else could possibly go wrong, right? Think again. The LA to Dallas leg is uneventful and I find myself a chair to try and (unsuccessfully) dose on for the 5 hour layover in Dallas. My gate changes 4 times during that 5 hour period. I rock up to my (latest) gate about an hour before the flight is scheduled to depart and patiently wait til my boarding group is called. I get to the front of the line, show my passport, and try to use the facial recognition iPad looking thingie they've got set up for check-in (on a side note I'm not sure if I think that's really cool or really creepy lol) and it makes that noise that you just know means it hasn't gone through. So I hand over the boarding pass that the American Airlines agent had printed off for me, it does the same thing. So they pull me aside and ask if I've checked in? I say "I have, I checked in in LA last night" (and didn't but wanted to say 'you're literally holding my boarding pass - like come on'). The check-in agent says "oh you were on an overnight flight"? "Yes" (another internal commentary: 'can you not see that on your computer? Are the two flights not linked?' Argh). Anyways, they do manage to work their magic and get me on the flight (but can you imagine if that leg had been sold out? Then what? Another night in the Dallas airport?!?). So I go through the creepy/cool facial recognition thingie again and get the right ding this time that tells me yes I'm now able to board my flight, and I proceed to have a nice uneventful flight down to Mazatlan, FINALLY.
When I did eventually land in Mazatlan around noon the following day I of course didn't want to sleep because I knew with the jetlag that I wouldn't have been able to sleep that night so I forced myself to stay awake. So, from my bed in Melbourne to my bed in Mazatlan I was awake a total of 58+ hours. On a trip that was supposed to amount to around 20 hours all in. And to make it worse, I hadn't seen my dad in almost a year, and so I lost a day of hanging out with my family.
Qantas. Do. Better.