Jetstar asks the impossible
By ALEX EASTON
WHEN Betty Campbell told staff at budget airline Jetstar she would never fly with them again, they told her they didn't blame her.
Mrs Campbell, 74, of Goonellabah, said Jetstar last week gave her only 30 minutes to get from Melbourne to Sydney when the company decided to cancel the flight she was booked on and put her on one leaving nearly two hours earlier.
The former Lismore Workers' Club vice-president gave it a good go, but never really had a chance.
Mrs Campbell said she was already boarding a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Sydney when the call came through to say her 4.15pm flight from Sydney to Ballina had been scrapped and she had been put on a flight that was due to leave in an hour.
That gave her 30 minutes to get to Sydney before the Jetstar check-in counter closed. Unfortunately it takes about 75 minutes to fly from Melbourne to Sydney, meaning the Jetstar plane left for Ballina about 15 minutes before she even landed.
"Even if I'd been in Sydney when they called I wouldn't have been able to make it in time to check in," Mrs Campbell said.
Jetstar staff at Sydney told her the best they could do was book her on a flight the following day. There was no offer of accommodation for the night she would have to spend in Sydney.
"They couldn't even give me a cash refund. They refund it to your credit card, which takes about three weeks," Mrs Campbell said.
"The girls (at the Jetstar counter) were very sympathetic. When I went angry and said 'I'll never fly with you again', they said 'We don't blame you. We wouldn't either'."
Mrs Campbell said she ended up forking out nearly $110 so she could catch a flight with regional airline Rex back to Ballina the same day.
Mrs Campbell's experience comes barely a month after 18 people were left stranded at Ballina airport when they arrived shortly after the airline's 30-minute check-in deadline.
Jetstar corporate relations manager Simon Westaway said Mrs Campbell had been the victim of an error and should have been told earlier of changed timetables between Sydney and Ballina.
Mr Westaway said the times had been changed to avoid fruit bats, which flew over Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport each evening during spring and summer.
Mr Westaway said other passengers on the flight were told the changed schedule up to two weeks in advance, but that, somehow, Mrs Campbell had been missed.
"I want to express an apology," he said.
"There was an error in our internal systems and we are reviewing that. However, that's still not good enough ? she should have got the call earlier.
"We would have made arrangements for her to have been booked on an earlier Qantas flight (from Melbourne) to make the change (at Sydney)."
Mr Westaway said he would personally contact Mrs Campbell to offer a formal apology.