Qantas Airways To Frequent-Flying Cancer Survivor: ‘We Don’t Think That Compensation Is Appropriate’

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Seventy-three-year-old Elizabeth Greenhalgh, an author and military historian who frequently travels overseas to give lectures, found her recent victory over ovarian cancer somewhat soured by the loss of the 150,672 Frequent Flyer points she had saved with Australia-based Qantas Airways. According to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald, Qantas points expire 18 months from the date that they were last earned or used, and Dr. Greenhalgh passed that point while recovering from her cancer treatment. While an email was sent warning her that the points would be expiring, she was not up to checking her email at the time.

Dr. Greenhalgh is the Executive Officer at the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, and has published three books about World War I; she was also an editor of War and Society between 2005-2010.

Following her cancer treatment and recovery, Dr. Greenhalgh sent her medical records to Qantas, requesting that her points be restored. The airline, however, refused, stating that “While we certainly appreciate Dr Greenhalgh’s very difficult circumstances, according to our terms and conditions, points are not reinstated after they’ve expired.”

“I would have expected somebody who’s been a Frequent Flyer for 16 years to be treated somewhat more flexibly and with more compassion,” said Dr. Greenhalgh of the response.

Dr. Greenhalgh’s position is fairly simple: both as a cancer survivor and a long-time customer of Qantas, she would like to be shown some consideration and compassion for her recent struggles; she has been fighting her battle with cancer for months.

As survivors can attest, recovering from cancer - especially later in life - is a long and arduous process.
As survivors can attest, recovering from cancer - especially later in life - is a long and arduous process.

Qantas, meanwhile, did offer to reinstate the points if Dr. Greenhalgh would complete a “points challenge,” requiring her to build up 2,500 points in six months, either by using a Qantas card or converting Woolworths reward points. Dr. Greenhalgh estimates that the “challenge” would cost her thousands of dollars.

According to the Daily Mail Australia, Qantas stated that they believe their remedy to be “fair and reasonable” when questioned by the Australian Airline Customer Advocate.

“Having given Dr Greenhalgh a solution that we consider fair and reasonable, we don’t think that compensation is appropriate.”

Elizabeth’s husband Michael, also an academic, is outraged on her behalf. He said that he wouldn’t allow the airline to “neglect and insult” her after 51 years of marriage.

Qantas added that they did not believe that their challenge constituted “anything hard to achieve,” and that their offering her an “opportunity to re-engage with our program” constituted a “gesture of goodwill” on Qantas’ part.

Qantas is the largest airline in Australia and is Australia’s flag carrier. Founded in 1920, Qantas is the third-oldest airline in the world and made roughly $12.4 billion USD in revenue in 2015.