Is Qantas Trying To Wriggle Out Of This Wormy Situation?

Filed Under: Advice, Qantas

“Ask Lucky” forum member LivinLIfeFrankly posed an interesting question today that I figured I’d chime in on, and I’m curious what you guys think.

Finding a worm in your airline lounge salad

You can read the entire original post here, but to summarize the situation:

  • S/he was flying Cathay Pacific business class from Sydney to Hong Kong on December 2, 2018, and using the Qantas Business Lounge
  • S/he had a plate of the rocket potato salad, and when about 80% done with the salad, spotted a worm
  • After bringing this to the attention of the lounge staff, the staff called over the food and beverage manager, who was apologetic, but that was it; nothing was offered,  with the primary goal being getting the situation out of public eye
  • Since there was no resolution at the lounge, s/he decided to Tweet Qantas, and while there was an immediate response from Qantas, customer service only reached out in January, about a month later
  • Customer service offered some Qantas points, but since the passenger was a Marco Polo Club member, s/he declined; eventually they offered a 100AUD Qantas voucher valid for a domestic flight
  • Even after trying to escalate, Qantas said that was the most appropriate compensation, and offered nothing more

Here are the pictures that are included in the post:

What’s the appropriate compensation?

LivinLIfeFrankly asks:

Am I being too demanding to ask for something more? Or you guys think, I’m being way too lenient with what has occurred to me? What would be an appropriate compensation?

In my case the answer is “I don’t know.” It does get me thinking, though. I guess my initial thoughts are:

  • How much responsibility does Qantas have here? Were they negligent at all? I assume they use an outside company to cater, and presumably this kind of stuff will happen every so often no matter where you’re eating? Should the lounge be digging through every leaf to make sure there’s not a worm?
  • I’d be completely disgusted if this happened to me, and it would probably take me a long time to eat salads “normally” again, without picking apart every piece and analyzing it. Heck, even having seen the pictures may have me doing that.
  • However, I’m not sure to what extent Qantas is to blame for that, and what they owe a passenger beyond an “I’m sorry.” I’d pay good money not to have something like that happen to me, but at the same time I’m not sure I’d expect a third party to pay me that amount.

So yeah, I’m not sure. It does sound like Qantas could have handled the situation better to begin with, both in terms of how seriously they took the situation while at the airport, how they apologized to the guest, and with the speed with which they responded to the complaint.

At the same time, I’m not quite sure this situation is on the same level as someone who gets food poisoning on a plane, or if there’s a piece of ceramic in food on a plane that causes someone to chip a tooth, for example.

If this happened at a restaurant, I expect at a minimum the salad would be taken off the bill. Would the entire meal be comped? I’m not sure, I’ve never had it happen, but I’m curious what you guys think. And how does an airline lounge compare to a restaurant situation for these purposes?

I’m curious where you guys stand — what should someone expect in this situation?

  1. They should offer NOTHING more than a simple apology. Ridiculous that anyone would expect more than that

  2. You’re eating something organic, even carefully washed food will occasionally have some residual organisms. These really won’t harm you, so he/she should get over it and move on.

    An apology should suffice, $100 voucher is more than enough…

  3. Qantas is being generous.

    Salads are made of vegetables – things that are grown in the earth with manure and stuff. The plants would be home to gazillions of wee beasties (unless they’re drenched in pesticides – which I’d suggest is possibly more problematic). Bugs are resilient things and can resist washing, sometimes hiding in the folds of a leaf, for instance.

    Our obsession with hygiene and germs has made us ludicrously overly squeamish (your posture when cooking octopus was a – frankly bizarre – example of this: you wouldn’t give a moment’s thought to shoving calamari into your mouth).

    S/he should get over themselves.

  4. I think the act of wanting something in return for getting a worm in your salad is a remarkable case of greed and entitlement. Food like lettuce was once alive. It comes from the groud. Occasionally you’re going to get some critters. Laugh it off. We have become a society that thinks anything short of perfection is considered an infraction and therefore deserves some kind of compensation. Take the 100 bucks and shut up. The thing that irks me is everyone apologized… but for some reason this wasn’t enough for the person who got the worm. They tweeted the photos not out of some sense of needing to warn future customers about the worm… but because they wanted compensation. Greedy.

  5. Person at the lounge was getting a complimentary service? I would say an apology and a minor form of compensation should suffice.

  6. Agree with @David H. It’s gross but if this happened in a nice restaurant you’d get that dish for free, a free dessert as “compensation,” and an apology from the manager. Getting $100 and then asking for MORE is kind of crazy.

  7. I had a British airways flight from JFK to LHR (red eye) in economy. The pillow at my seat was covered in dry blood under the thin ‘cover.’ (It was visible -through- it, and where the opening was you could see underneath and… gross.). Not just a little bit either, but it was all over the place (I’d wager the blood would on the pillow would put you close to the 100ml limit of a UK flight 😉 )

    Their attitude was “meh, we don’t have any more and you’ll be fine.” Never heard back from BA either.

  8. Slightly disappointed you’re empowering him/her by posting the photos. This is compensation entitlement bs. People get excited when bad things happen to them now in anticipation of compensation, it’s quite interesting.

  9. Grow up. This is so infantile !
    Passenger & even Lucky should be accompanied next time for not having a mature response to this. In fact, Qantas should not even have offered a voucher.
    In europe, responsible restaurants would actually offer the whole meal free, because of that some customers have been caught bringing in a fly or a worm.

  10. If this had been in a restaurant, I would have expected the item to be comped. Anything else would be above and beyond. While undoubtedly gross, it’s just a worm, and there’s a lot more of them where that lettuce came from. The $100 is more than generous enough. Wanting more than that is a bit entitled in my opinion…

  11. The compensation is perfectly fine. Worms are a good source of protein and are eaten in many cultures. Doesn’t make it right, but take the money and run.

  12. I’d be happy to see that worm in the salad… at least it means the salad was not soaked in ridiculous amounts of Monsanto’s Glyphosate etc.

  13. I’m surprised at all the negative reaction. The person isn’t being extremely demanding and is even asking what’s appropriate. While I agree that these things can happen, the airline should still want to give something to avoid leaving the person with such a bad feeling about them (whether it was their fault or not). A $100 voucher feels about right.

  14. “S/he had a plate of the rocket potato salad, and when about 80% done with the salad, spotted a warm”

    Spotted a what, now? 😉

    Since said passenger was flying out of SYD, I’d take a duty free voucher that I can redeem on another salad if I were in their situation, or just cash

  15. The audacity of today’s snowflake generation “compensation for my feelings“ …while I would expect Qantas to take more Responsibility for this and call them out on social media, money and compensation is not the solution they are not owed anything

  16. “I’d be happy to see that worm in the salad… ” all the veggies going into a salad should have been rinsed, organic or no

  17. I agree with the general consensus. Fresh salad will occasionally have bugs and stuff no matter how carefully you try and wash it. At a restaurant, I’d expect the item comped and a fresh plate brought out. This was a free item in a lounge. I think an apology is perfectly reasonable. Maybe some points?

    I think it’s important to note the difference between finding a worm or bug that would naturally be present in the growing lettuce with something like a roach that would indicate unsanitary conditions in the kitchen.

  18. In all of my years of eating salads, I have never once encountered a worm or anything related. I did once find a dead fly in my sweet and sour sauce which the Chinese restaurant in question did not particularly care about and it was many years before we ordered from that restaurant again.

    I disagree that at a fancy restaurant they’d just comp the dish and offer a free dessert. They’d comp the whole meal and would be extremely apologetic and concerned about the negative publicity. That said, $100, even if it is Australian dollars as opposed to more valuable USD, would seem fair.

  19. Actually, there should be a surcharge for that Neil Perry-designed “Morsels of wild-caught gluten-free Annelida, accompanied by wild organic, vegan hand-picked arugula and locally-raised-picked-steamed potatoes seasoned with zesty Perry’s Special dressing”.

  20. Finding a worm in your food, is so much better than finding HALF of a worm. There are way too many requests for “compensation” when MINOR things happen.

  21. “S/he had a plate of the rocket potato salad, and when about 80% done with the salad, spotted a warm.” I believe you meant worm.

    All the best.


  22. Now she’ll need to make doctor appointments for tapeworm meds where the $100 AUS will come handy, if she hadn’t already spent it all on anti diarrhea supplements from consuming salad seasoned with delicious worm slime and vermicast. Nom nom nom.

  23. They should have probably reached out to Cathay Pacific as Cathay is a customer in the Qantas lounge (as such) and Cathay should have sorted it out with Qantas as they weren’t a Qantas passenger.

  24. Now she will grow a potbelly filled with fluid and worm eggs. The worms will hatch and multiply within her and she will poop worm. Ultimately, a movie documentary will be made about this.

  25. As others have said, the voucher is more than enough. Yes, it’s kind of disgusting, but it’s not life-threatening, it did not cause a delay which resulted in a cost to the customer, etc. As also noted, Qantas could have handled it better, but I would say this matter is closed and the airline owes nothing more.

  26. Interesting story and good forum discussion.

    I do not find it unreasonable that the traveler was upset by what occurred and is curious about what feels like appropriate compensation. I actually appreciate her curiosity about what feels appropriate.

    My views: one, if you fly QF (as I have extensively TPAC and domestic), you know that the lounge value proposition is much different than it is in the US. I do not find it unreasonable to expect worm-free plates and be shaken when you get a salad with a worm. QF lounges are nice and position themselves as upscale and a fairly big element of the value proposition.

    Two, what’s more annoying than the worm itself (I agree, this can happen; I got a salad served to me at Hyatt with a giant bug in it once) is QF’s reaction. From my perspective based on what’s presented in this post, QF had poor service recovery here, and that may be what has the traveler more upset than the worm itself. She seems to have at least the impression that (a) the manager was more concerned about public perception (“get it out of public eye”) than her experience of being presented a worm, and (b) QF was slow to respond to the complaint (a month).

    I can understand; I experienced a fairly significant service failure with Qantas, and their customer service response time was atrocious. It took several weeks and multiple polite inquiries to even get an answer. That whole time, you just stew, because you do not feel heard. I ended being as annoyed by having to beg for a response than I was by the original failure. I wonder if this traveler might feel better had QF more immediately responded. There’s something about the delayed response time that reads, “you aren’t important.”

    I also think about how the Hyatt referenced above handled my salad bug. I was not given ‘compensation’ (e.g., a free night), but I was (a) offered an immediate and sincere apology by the restaurant manager, (b) I did not pay for my salad, and (c) when I came back to my room, the staff had delivered a bottle of wine and a handwritten note apologizing and thanking me for handling the situation calmly. I left that Hyatt a very satisfied customer, because the service recovery was SPOT ON. Sh!t happens, but the response matters. Imagine, for instance, if the lounge manager had seemed sincerely apologetic and, for instance, offered the passenger a nice bottle of wine to take home with her on her flight. [I have no idea if that is authorized, of course. But, I do like, for instance, what United is doing around empowering FAs to offer service recovery IN-FLIGHT for service failures; it reads, “your experience matters, right now.”]

    My ultimate answer: I’m not sure Qantas owes her compensation for the worm itself. I do think compensation is warranted (and $100AUD is probably sufficient) for what sounds like pretty mediocre service recovery and poor responsiveness in the complaint channels.

  27. I think most responses here are used to U.S. airline compensation standards.

    A live cockroach (not into them) walking around the lounge’s bathroom / shower (at Thai Airways Royal Silk lounge / Business Class lounge) – I was compensated $300 (USD) to spend in their inflight duty free shopping. I did not ask for compensation but the lounge manager approached me after I took a shower with the 3 $100 in-flight duty free vouchers (I guess whoever was responsible in cleaning the bathrooms told the manager). Status: Star Alliance Silver from United.

    Qantas refunded my AA miles for having a broken entertainment system for a 8.5 hour flight between Sydney and Hong Kong . Flight attendant reassigned me to another seat and told me that it would be reported. I did not ask for compensation (did not even contacted AA about it) but I was surprised to get an apology email from Qantas with my miles refunded to my AA Account. No status with AA or OneWorld.

    I guess non-U.S. airlines have higher standards in service (instead of just bringing you safely from point A to point B). I believe the $100 is not enough for this kind of situation (perhaps, the reader that sent the question is used to flying Asia-based airlines).

  28. The way Qantas handled this seems about acceptable $100 AUD and an apology is about all you can expect since it could have been the catering company as well as the fact that it is a salad which comes from the earth. That being said Qantas could have reacted a bit more promptly.

  29. The $100 voucher was more than enough, demanding more is just selfish. A restaurant would replace it or at most replace it and not charge you but you’d still pay for other things you order. I hope they decide not to get give her the voucher or anything else since she has gone public to try and force them to offer more.

  30. “Am I being too demanding to ask for something more? ”
    YES! How greedy can you get? Shit happens, no one was hurt (or could have been) and what harm was really done? None. Get a grip, take their very generous offer a voucher (which is definitely too much for the non-incident that ocurred) and shut up already.

  31. If I encounter the same situation, I would contact Cathay Pacific to resolve the issue, and leave the task of demanding something from Qantas to Cathay Pacific instead of doing it myself.

  32. $100 is fine. It’s just a worm. Had she found a finger or a syringe in her salad or a racial epithet on her coffee cup, then we’re talking serious compensation…

  33. A few points~
    1. The salad was not lettuce; it was wild rocket/aragula.
    2. The offending wildlife was a worm, not a ‘bug’; two vastly different things (bugs generally have wings),
    3. If the menu description did not mention this item it should not have been there,
    4. The salad, being wild rocket, would not have been densely plated and the worm should have been easily spotted during preparation,
    5. I doubt the lounge manager would have been able to offer much more than a profuse apology, and replace the dish with something else, and suggest contacting Qantas Customer Care if the diner wished to pursue the matter further.
    6. Customer Care historically does not Care about much at all, and considerable prodding is needed to get any resolution. (HINT: It is time efficient to tell them what you want to resolve any problem and negotiate from there. They seem to be trained to offer you next to nothing in the hope you will give up and go away.)

  34. This is Australia. It’s only a worm, and probably was washed nice and clean with the salad greens. We have a saying here – the acronym for which is “HTFU”. 99.9% of us would have laughed, tossed it aside and had another drink.

  35. Had a ribeye that looked like road kill, the waitress was the one that complained, got a better steak and desert. Found a hair in my pasta, got all my drinks comped. The bartender/waiter was cool that I didn’t make a big deal out of it. Shit happens both times I was fairly compensated

  36. @johnboxall as an Australian who frequents QF lounges, I most certainly would not have laughed, tossed it aside and had another drink.

    It highlights poor hygiene practices – any lettuce should be washed and sanitised, and then dried through a spinner before being utilised to prepare the salad.

    Do things like this happen? Yes, most often because the correct procedure wasn’t followed. Is it the end of the earth? No.

    But I dont think the original question of “is this appropriate compensation” is an unfair one.

    How would you feel if you got an 8 hour flight and found your IFE OOO or your seat didn’t recline? Technology snafu’s happen too, but i’m pretty sure that 99.9% of people wouldn’t laugh and just have another drink if it was a hard product failure.

  37. I think the problem is that they didn’t offer anything useful to the reader…..Qantas Club points or a QF voucher only valid for domestic flights likely isn’t too useful for an elite MPC member living in HK.

  38. In America, lettuce kills people as documented recently in the Romain lettuce outbreak. Clearly this isn’t America and it wouldn’t matter even if it was in America because the USDA is on furlough. $100 AUS is plenty and she can use that to enjoy a better meal than the Clemson football dinner at the White House.

  39. Can someone explain why she needs ‘compensation’? Is she now traumatized every time she walks past a salad bar? Does she have nightmares about being attacked by giant pesto worms? FFS! If she was in a restaurant, then it should be comped. End of. Using social media to try and ‘blackmail’ companies is immoral. If she feels that hard done by, take Qantas to court and see what ‘compensation’ she deserves – wasting the courts time, methinks!

  40. Cxntass at it again. If it was one of the short homosexual Irishman’s salads a few people would have been fired. Of Cxntass are liable. Stuffed up. Give the woman a First Class round trip on standby to anywhere in the world Cxntass flies. Problem solved.

  41. What I am bewildered by is all you folks not realising that this is a millipede, and not a worm!

    They’re super common in Australia, man, I find them on the bed, on the couch, everywhere. The fact that there is one in the salad just proves that the salad is fresh – would you want to eat a salad that not even a bug would want to touch?

    If the customer does not fly in AU often (which seems likely given she has Marco Polo status, not Qantas FF), I presume this is why she feels that the AU$100 domestic flight voucher is not good enough. In this regard, perhaps she should take it up with Cathay Pacific instead, given she was not even flying Qantas.

  42. It makes me shudder
    It makes me shriek
    When I find a worm inside my peach.
    But what really makes me blue
    Is when I find one that’s been bitten in two.

    Anon. Children’s book of verse.

  43. @LoungeAddict
    I definitely don’t expect my lettuce to be “sanitised”. Washed certainly but what exactly is sanitary lettuce?

  44. Maybe it’s more of an American thing where compensation is expected for any wrongdoing. But in Australia, nobody would ever expect to be compensated for something like this.

  45. This was in a lounge, not on board, so I am surprised Quantas is offering any compensation and think 100 AUD is more than enough! Also surprised the customer did not take this up with Cathay, since that is who s/he was flying.

    I could see some expectation of compensation if this had been an on-board meal, not in the lounge.

  46. As mentioned earlier, most Australians would put the salad aside, mention it to a staff member, accept the apology, note that these things happen occasionally and then drink $100 worth of booze to wipe the memory of it.

    Most of us do not expect compensation for a perceived slight, and as we don’t have a tipping culture, our service staff do not fall over backwards to make customers feel they are the most special person in the world in order to have enough pay to cover basic living expenses. I think the offer of compensation (albeit useless to the complainer) was generous.

    Sounds like a case of DYKWITIA.

  47. Coming to the end of my vegetarian salad on a recent cruise across the Pacific I discovered a fairly large, dead spider under the last lettuce leaf. Missing two legs which I assume I had swallowed.
    The waiters were horrified but the chef did not seem too bothered.
    I escalated to more senior officers and, after discussion, was offered a 25% discount on a future cruise for both myself and my wife. That totalled out to about $1200.
    A very fair compensation in my opinion.

  48. @ smokescreen

    absolutely your food should be washed and sanitised. This is standard practice in commercial catering. Many pesticides are sprayed on food when it is grown, especially for commercial sale, and these are not always removed by water alone. Water also doesn’t kill pathogens like listeria, ecoli and salmonella.

    The recent ecoli outbreak in Australia came from rockmelons – because they were washed but not sanitised. And then repeatedly cut open on chopping boards, meaning that the outside (which had been washed but not sanitised) came into contact with the freshly cut fruit. And the same knife that cut through th outside was then used to dice the fruit.

    FYI – I used to work for Dnata in airline catering and am completely aware of the hygiene practices employed in such spaces.

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