Alan Joyce has certainly had lots of good news to report recently with Qantas back to 100 per cent pre- Covid domestic flight capacity with similar levels internationally expected to be reached by the end of the year. The airline’s cost cutting program is ahead of schedule and Qantas now expects to return to profitability by 2023. Qantas will replace its domestic fleet with all-new planes from European manufacturer Airbus and has just committed to Project Sunrise by ordering 12 Airbus A350s. Qantas has just purchased a controlling stake in online travel business TripADeal to tap into the booming packaged holiday sector as well as buying Alliance Aviation as part of its expansion plans to boost its share of the lucrative charter market.

Despite all this great news Alan Joyce is in the doghouse and drawing lots of criticism. Qantas has been savaged for the recent drop in customer standards such as chaos at airports, misplaced baggage, marathon waiting times to its call centres and unpunctuality of its flights. These issues feature in the fake satirical ad aired on ABC’s 730 report with comedian Mark Humphries acting as a Qantas pilot welcoming passengers aboard.

To be fair Qantas is not alone in their recent headaches. Carriers around the world are all struggling to return to a “business as usual footing”. Restarting Qantas back into service is a complex business. There is lots of maintenance required to get the aircraft back in the sky. Intensive training is needed for pilots to get them back into the cockpit. Covid is still doing the rounds with cases increasing in recent weeks leading to more staff shortages. Wild weather has also exacerbated delays particularly at major airports Sydney and Melbourne.

However, the recent drop in Qantas’ operational performance objectives has really started to impact the airline’s brand and reputation. Social media posts from frustrated customers have highlighted an increasing problem for the airline. For customers paying top dollar their travel experience has at times been brutal.

First, quality. That is doing things right. Qantas has been plagued with a rash of misplaced luggage. Some furious Qantas passengers have had to wait as long as 6 days to be reunited with their bags. In a public relations disaster Qantas misplaced a woman’s bag that contained her mother’s ashes.

Second, speed. That is providing their service fast. There has been bedlam at airports with lengthy queues and long wait lines especially during the school holidays. Alan Joyce initially blamed the chaos as passengers not being “match fit” – a comment he later back-pedalled on to blame security staff shortages. The Qantas boss has also had to apologise to customers experiencing marathon waits to connect to their call centre with some people placed on hold for up to 8-hours as they attempt to change bookings or get a refund.

Third, dependability. That is being on time. Qantas’ on time performance has hit near record lows with lots of delays and cancellations. Just last week Qantas cancelled 6.7 percent of domestic flights and had an on-time performance of just 44 per cent. Pre-Covid Qantas’ on-time performance was about 85%.

The airline’s treatment of workers to save money during the pandemic has also drawn heavy criticism. The airline pocketed $855 million in job keeper payments from the Federal Government despite standing down roughly two thirds of its 30,000 workforce as air travel dried up. This has somewhat come to bite Qantas in the foot as it is now suffering from a staff shortage partly because many of their specialised staff were lured away to other companies after being stood down during the pandemic. Alan Joyce has also drawn disapproval for the recent outsourcing of its baggage handling operations at 10 airports – a move later found by the Federal Court to be illegal.
Alan Joyce is also in the doghouse from travel agents after slashing commissions on international fares from 5 per cent to 1 percent. Travel agencies could take revenge by steering customers away from Qantas towards other airlines.

Alan Joyce’s harbourfront home has been egged and toilet papered amid a slump in the airline’s popularity. There is no shortage of potential suspects.

Source: Qantas savaged in fake ad aimed at recent controversies by Duncan Murray The Australian June 24th, Travels agents to vent wrath over commission cuts by steering customers from Qantas by Lis Allen The Australian June 29th, Qantas and aviation faces make or break test on loyalty by Eric Johnston The Australian July 11th, Qantas and Virgin domestic on time performance hits record lows by Tansy Hardcourt The Australian July 12th.

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David Broadbridge

David Broadbridge holds a Bachelor of Commerce at the UNSW and a Dip Ed at UNE. He is the former Head Business Studies teacher at Pymble Ladies College. Follow David on Twitter or read his Qantas News Blog.