Showdown at Qantas Office - Beijing

So part of the attraction of our Round the World ticket is it’s flexibility. Once you’ve identified you’re destinations and flight dates you can change your dates at will. So if you get some where and love it you can stay longer, or if you get somewhere and hate it you can jet out, and for a fee you can change your destinations entirely. This flexibility is one of the reasons we went with the OneWorld Alliance ticket.

Of course, when you’re planning things you plan them in a perfect world. Reality sometimes sets in when you try to actually use this flexibility. First off, it’s free to change your dates using the OneWorld Explorer ticket. This is true, unless you bought your ticket from Qantas. Qantas charges a 25 dollar fee each time you change your dates. This applies to us even though we bought our tickets through American Airlines. What to know why? We bought our tickets at the American Airlines desk in Auckland. And the American Airlines desk in Auckland is just that, a desk in a Qantas office, therefore everything gets printed on Qantas stock and we get to pay extra for services that should be free. Kind of annoying, but what are you going to do?

We’ve made date changes to our tickets twice already, and each time they went swimmingly. So when we decided we wanted to make both date and destination changes in Beijing we weren’t expecting any problems. There were problems.

First off, we wanted to make destination changes in part because two new airlines have joined the alliance: Royal Jordanian and MALÉV, the national carrier of Hungary. Adding these two add a lot of options for flights to the Mid-East and Central/Eastern Europe. We were pretty excited about the possibilities, so we headed down to the Qantas office in Beijing.

Note to any Qantas ticket holders thinking about going into the Beijing office – they have no idea what they’re doing. Stay away! Stay away! Stay away!

After two minutes in the office I knew the wisest thing was to get our tickets out of the hands of the Qantas rep who had them and get as far away as possible. When she told us she didn’t know that Namibia was in Africa we were concerned. When she thought Victoria Falls was in Europe we were very concerned. When she told us that a British Airways flight wasn’t part of the alliance, I just wanted to run away. We agreed on a “Face-Saving” maneuver – she would read up on the OneWorld alliance rules, and we would give her a list of changes we would like to make. We left relieved that nothing at all had been done.

Fast forward a couple of days. After “educating” herself she started to make the changes we had requested. We where notified by email. But instead of making all the changes she made just two. I immediately called the office and she told me that the changes she made would cost $150 each and for the rest of them I should “Probably go to Hong Kong office. Much bigger, more use to this.”

This really wasn’t the response we were looking for. So we headed back down to the Qantas office as soon as we could, and luckily got hold of someone who mostly knew what she was doing – even though she had to be “convinced” that Royal Jordanian was now a OneWorld partner and that “Yes, you can” book us on that airline. We got mostly all the changes we were looking for, and it only took the better part of three days. Three trips to the Qantas Beijing office and a couple of “double check” calls to the American Airlines Round the World ticket desk in the states (All of whom are extremely competent).

So the winners in our ticket change are Victoria Falls and Istanbul. The losers: Mauritius and Nairobi. Why: All the cheap accommodation in Mauritius (there is very little to begin with) was booked up and we didn’t feel like sleeping in the airport for a week. Nairobi lost out because we decided we didn’t want to trek overland in Africa for a month. So instead we’re flying into and out of Vic Falls and spending the better part of a week in Istanbul.

Some people have said to us that Qantas is really an acronym for Queer and Nasty Try Another Service. We do not believe this. The reps we’ve used in other Qantas offices have been terrific, and we’d love it if they worked in Beijing, but they don’t and the folks in that office aren’t really up to speed with OneWorld tickets. Too bad they’re having the Olympics here next year. If you absolutely have to use this office, my advice would be to have all of your details figured out before you go in (flight numbers, carrier codes, the works). You may have to dig in your heals on some points, but you’ll (probably) get the changes you need.