Thursday, 11 August 2016

Qantas Holidays honours its online Four Seasons Bali pricing mistake deal - possibly at its own cost

This saga started on a whim just over a month ago when my partner Mikaeli came home after a long hard workday on a rainy cold winter evening in Sydney and said 'We have to escape this winter'. This was only a couple of days after a firm but polite conversation about budgets and discretionary spending.

Naturally, my interest was peaked, never being one to resist the opportunity to catch a plane and escape to a nice hotel somewhere warm.

Our original plan was to squander our remaining points (the ones that hadn't already been foolishly spent on a first class trip to Europe next year (a story for another post) on our winter escape. But it looks like the rest of Australia has the same idea, so points fares are hard (not impossible) to come by to the destinations we fancied - Bali, Fiji, Noumea (New Caledonia) and Vanuatu - if they have fixed that runway.

The offer I found

In the shower of travel related email newsletters I get, something caught my eye, and took me to the Qantas holiday site. Deciding it wasn't suitable (code for too expensive) I poked around a little more on the website to see what else was available.

I don't have an original screen grab, and they have withdrawn the offer but this is sort of what we saw - but with a way different price, and for 7 nights with an upgrade to a Villa:

This is a screen grab from 10 August. I saw the screen on 11 July initially - with a very different price.
The price I saw was from $1224 (US$940) per person and was for 7 nights, with an upgrade to a villa.

Out with the calculator, comparison shop on the Four Seasons website, and that works out at AU$350 (twin share) a night - versus AU$799 (US$612) a night on the Four Seasons site for the same Villa (todays price - with lowest price guarantee) - so less than half price if you include the upgrade to a Villa. And that's not even counting the other inclusions of transfers, breakfast, wifi etc etc.

A deal too good to refuse.

I checked some dates for flights eyeing the possibility of some points based fares and then enquired straight away.

Initially, the consultant said - 'Oh - I think we have sold out our allocation. Let me check with the hotel and get back to you'.  I held for a while, and she said, 'Yes they will honour it, what dates would your prefer?'  

Well - we had worked out some possible dates, but actually, I wanted to get some availabilities first so I could look up points fares, and then hopefully juggle the two.  The consultant advised that it wasn't that straight forward - you needed to make a booking and pay a deposit within about 5 days to secure the deal, and the deal was specific to the dates.

So, I agreed. I had a partner to consult as well as points fares to look up, so better get the deal held for sometime before I dick around with the details.

The consultant put in some dummy flight details (so that the transfers could be booked), and promised to send me a booking confirmation any minute.

I got a booking ‘Invoice’  via email a few minutes later for more than twice as much as the price advertised. I rang them back. . .



. . . 'I know that the price was 'from' but I thought that meant it might increase by one or two hundred dollars, not more than twice as much!' I stated politely.

'Must have been a pricing or marketing error, - just hold on' she requested.  After a few minutes wait, she reported that something definitely had gone wrong, 'Must be a pricing or marketing error . . .' and that it was being referred up the supervisor chain and they would have to get back to me in a day or two - it might even take a week.

I vaguely thought - do I want to get all nasty on them, and threaten a social media campaign, and to get the advertising regulator, on to them about false advertising? etc etc - and then I thought - I don't think I can be arsed. The probable outcome I figured would be that they would come back sayin it was the price she had given me and we would decide it was too expensive and not proceed.

From then on, about every week, I would get an automated email requesting that I pay a $110 deposit to secure my booking, and each time I would call, ask them to look at the booking notes, and they would say 'Oh that is strange - I'll extend the period by another week until this is resolved'. And so it went on, perfectly politely, with me expecting them to come back and say, no, sorry - that is the price, take it or leave it.

Except they didn't.

Just when I had given up, on 1st August, I get a phone call saying that they would honour the advertised price. WhooPeeee!

It would have been rude to refuse.
That's for 7 nights at teh Four Seasons with an upgrade to a Villa, people!

Well done Qantas

Next call - to our regular travel agent to arrange airfares.  I give him all the details, and tell him that he is welcome to take over the booking (which means he gets a commission), and to get on and organise our flights.  He calls back, and says 'Boy have you got a great deal. I think Qantas is paying for half your holiday'. He had to be put up the food chain to a supervisor, who said, no - he couldn't take over the booking given the amount it was costing Qantas Holidays already. Fair enough.

So I don't know who made the mistake, but my ex-Qantas contacts say it does happen, and when it does, it ends up being costly.

As to Qantas honouring the deal - good on them for doing it voluntarily without a cross word from me.

I think good consumer protection here in Australia, and the power of social media means large travel organisations are much more pro-active on this sort of error than they used to be. And they score lots of loyalty points from me.

Image of from one of the Villa's © Four Seasons

Our Flights

So, the airfares. Bali is a very popular destination from Australia, but frankly all the return flight schedules are awful. There are three airlines that fly direct from Sydney, and their schedules for our dates are:

Garuda
GA  715    SYD DPS   10.25   14.40
GA  714    DPS SYD   23.30  #07.25

Jetstar
JQ   37   SYD DPS   16.40   21.05
JQ   38   DPS SYD   22.35  #06.15

and Virgin Australia
VA  65  SYD DPS  11.35  16.20
VA  64  DPS  SYD  01.10  09.15

Potentially we could have marshalled points for Virgin Australia - but their redemptions are very points intensive, especially if they have run out of their lowest Reward Seat category. Even in that category your looking at about 45,000 points return in economy, or 99,000 in business, both plus fees.

Let me take the suspense out of this. We're travelling Garuda on a A330-300 in economy and business.
Image from Garuda website
On Jetstar it would be 40,000 points economy, and 80,000 in Business - but remember this is low cost airline business - all-be-it on a 787.

We have ended up booking paid fares with Garuda (we didn't have nearly enough for points travel) - with our travel agent successfully requesting a cheaper fare bucket than was publicly available (another reason to use a travel agent!).

Cost of our blended economy/business fare is AU$1,711 per person inc taxes. Marginally cheaper than Jetstar (AU$1,723) although they don't have flat beds in business, but do fly B787's. Virgin were most expensive at AU$2,200.


Garuda have vastly improved their service over the last few years - gaining a 5 star rating (for what its worth) from Skytrax.  Our trip will be on an A330-300 with a 2-4-2 seat plan in economy, and unfortunately their old 2-2-2 formation in Business. We won't get to experience their new 1-2-1 business cabins installed with Super Diamond design seats from B/E Aerospace on their newly ordered A330-300's.

Although flying out Economy, we are doing the overnight return in Business Class, and they are the only ones with flat beds. As our travel agent said - who wants to ruin a nice relaxing holiday by flying the redeye in economy home.

Reviews coming in September:

  • Lounge Reveiw - Sydney Skyteam Lounge (if I have interpreted the entry eligibility correctly)
  • Flight Reveiw - Garuda GA715 A330-300 to Denpasar in Economy
  • Transfer Review -  Denpasar to Ubud
  • Hotel Reveiw - Four Seasons at Sayan - Villa
  • Transfer Reveiw - Ubud to Denpasar
  • Lounge Review - Garuda Lounge - Denpasar Airport (Ngurah Rai International)
  • Flight Review - Garuda GA714 A330-300 to Denpasar in Business Class 

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