Infuriated citizens have taken to social media to express their anger after Australia’s flag carrier Qantas removed a 78-year old Vietnam war veteran from his paid business class seat so that a pilot could be seated.
War veteran Stephen Jones, who served in a combat unit in Vietnam, was on a connecting flight home with his wife from Melbourne Airport (MEL) to Adelaide Airport (ADL) after a trip to New Zealand.
Jones said in an interview with Melbourne radio station 3AW that they were in the Qantas business class lounge in Melbourne having coffee when he heard his name paged and a request to go to the desk.
When Jones got to the desk, a Qantas employee told him, “I’ve got some bad news for you, you’ve been bumped.”
“It didn’t register at first, I wasn’t quite sure what ‘bumped’ means,” Jones said.
The airline employee then explained that they will have to reissue Jones an economy class ticket, because they have a pilot traveling with them on the flight who needed to get to Adelaide, and the pilot’s contract states that he has to fly business class.
Jones confirmed that the pilot ended up sitting next to his wife on the one-hour flight to Adelaide.
When asked whether the pilot had a chat with his wife during the flight, Jones said, “No, he wouldn’t look at her.”
Qantas’ “goodwill gesture”
Jones said that when he got home, he wrote a complaint letter to Qantas, and received a reply the following morning.
He said that as a “goodwill gesture”, the airline offered him 5,000 Qantas points. Jones declined the “very, very generous offer”, saying that it would be hypocritical of him to accept.
“I don’t think anything will change unless there’s ramifications for Qantas,” Jones said.
Disgusted citizens air their frustrations
Meanwhile, social media users who have followed Jones’ experience called the airline’s actions “disgusting”.
One user pointed out that Qantas’ pilots may be well paid, but this pilot in particular, was no gentleman, given that it was only a one-hour flight.