As a Qantas very frequent flyer, I am watching Qantas in disputes with three unions. There is the classic “blame the management” by the unions and the classic “blame the unions” by Qantas spokespeople. For passengers, there’s inconvenience of cancelled flights. For the tourist industry, theres a fear of loss of passengers at this crucial time. For Qantas there is presumably the economic impact of revenue losses.
I am interested that Virgin Australia is adding capacity to cope and advertising special fares. Since their conversion from discount to full service carrier, they have apparently snared 13 per cent of the Australian business market. Thats got to hurt Qantas again (although Virgin Australia are not making money yet). No wonder Qantas has announced improvements to its Gold Status Frequent Flyer program with better upgrade opportunities and extra baggage. They are also rolling out their new top tier: Platinum one. Still I see nothing useful for the Platinum tier which I think has been rapidly eroded by the airline. Talking to business people in the lounges, they voice concerns that the national carrier is not what it was. They know change is necessary but the attitude to their top customers (Gold and Platinum) is perceived to be poor.
The Australian public in the meantime are being assaulted by messages that Qantas is “unsafe”. Every diversion, every turnback and every piece of severe turbulence is being reported on Australian national news media. Its hard to know if the number of “incidents” involving Qantas is up or just being reported more or both. In addition, there is the message that maintenance is being outsourced, cabin crews internationalised and a whole new Asian airline added. Add the strike actions, and from my conversations, I think the Australian general public’s positive sentiment toward Qantas is being tested. Time was there was a feeling of pride at seeing a Qantas tail at an airport around the world. Is that still there?
CEO Alan Joyce says that Qantas is involved in a race for its survival. He has warned that Qantas could go the way of Ansett. To bring this change, he really needs the support of the general public, the business fliers and the unions. I worry in this change process he may have lost much support?