Is Qantas now unsafe?

Charlie: Ray, all airlines have crashed at one time or another, that doesn’t mean that they are not safe. 

Raymond: QANTAS. QANTAS never crashed. 
Charlie: QANTAS? 
Raymond: Never crashed. 
Charlie: Oh that’s gonna do me a lot of good because QANTAS doesn’t fly to Los Angeles out of Cincinnati, you have to get to Melbourne! Melbourne, Australia in order to get the plane that flies to Los Angeles!

In those words from the movie “Rain Man”, Qantas was immortalised as the world’s safest airline. 
What was not strictly true was the “never crashed” statement. Qantas, which in 90 years old this month have actually had five  “hull losses” with the loss of  21 passengers: 

  • 1934: De Havilland DH-50 aircraft and pilot lost near Winton, central Queensland.
  • 1942: De Havilland DH-86 crashes in Brisbane are killing  two crew and seven passengers.
  • 1944: Empire flying boat engine trouble on Sydney-Brisbane flight, crashes in Sydney Harbour. All but one passenger rescued.
  • 1946: Avro Lancastrian on Colombo-Cocos Island flight lost in Indian Ocean with five crew and five passengers.
  • 1960: Super Constellation crashes at Mauritius and burns. Everyone got out safely.
  • In the same year,  1960, a Trans Australia Airlines (TAA)  538, a Fokker Friendship belonging crash landed in the ocean south-east of Mackay on final approach in foggy night conditions. TAA was later absorbed into Qantas.

Since 1960, however, Qantas has never  had a “hull loss” (fatal accident).  Moreover, Qantas have never lost a jet aeroplane (although they came close ten years ago when a 747 slid down the runway in Bangkok)

This last two weeks,  Qantas has been is in the news for five incidents:

  1. November 4, QF 32 Singapore, AIRBUS 380 -Rolls Royce engine explosion
  2. November 5, Singapore, 747 – contained engine failure
  3. November 12, QF 768, Perth, 767  -after flight crew became aware of vibration in number one engine.
  4. November 15, – QF 17 Sydney, 747 -smoke from electrical problem
  5. November 17, QF 64, Qantas 747 – Bird strike

I  have flown Qantas 224 times. Should I be worried? Yes  or No

Investors say  Yes!  90 per cent of Australian investors say these recent incidents are damaging Qantas-  55% blame the incidents outsourced  maintenance. 37% say its because of cost-cutting.  77% of investors want the cost-control strategy is stop.

The Australian and International Pilots Association say  Yes -accusing all airlines of lowering safety, maintenance and training standards. The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association has warned that ”danger signs” were now emerging from Qantas’s decision to outsource maintenance, with a spate of safety incidents since it sent the work overseas.

Opinion Polls are saying  Yes The with 47% in an Age poll, saying they would fly another airline
Blogs are saying  Yes 
Tweets are saying  Yes

Are they right? Is Qantas now unsafe?

Qantas has a good safety record for five reasons;

  1. Luck- lets be honest!
  2. Geography- most of Qantas flights are into airports that are not crowded, very rarely snow bound and have moderate winds and temperate weather conditions
  3. Pilot training- Listen to this pilot of the Qantas A380 and be impressed. The crew that landed that A380 were impressive in the way the pilots handled what was potentially a real disaster. Qantas Crews are highly experienced and highly trained.
  4. Australian Culture- which allows a first officer to challenge a pilot
  5. Maintenance- the perception has been that Qantas planes are very carefully maintained. With the  shift to offshore maintenance have become nervous

Of the five recent incidents:

  1. Nov 4 A380 -is not caused by poor maintenance but what appears to be a design fault and good luck certainly came in to play- Qantas did right thing and grounded
  2. Nov  5,  747 – contained engine failure -possible but unlikely to be maintenance related
  3. Nov 12,  767  -vibration in number one engine – could be linked to maintenance
  4. Nov 15, – 747 -smoke from electrical problem- could be linked to maintenance
  5. Nov 17, 747 – Bird strike, incident.- Not maintenance related, just bad luck for plane and birds -they happen to all airlines from time to time

Some members of Qantas frequent flyer have questioned if there are really more incidents or if the Media are “slamming” Qantas hard? What do you think?

The Main Qantas Brand = still safer than most airlines. 


  1. Qantas' branding = safety (and yes, the quoted "Rain Man" dialogue has certainly helped :-). God only knows it isn't the food, cost, convenience (when oh when will we get some decent flights out of Melbourne, instead of them all going to Sydney?? Sydney Airport is crowded, poky, badly designed, and Melbourne is almost the same size anyway, given our current growth phase. Oh, and we have a spare airport at Avalon. But I digress…)Qantas are just *one* disaster away from tanking. The current economic climate is not kind to airlines (seen a dividend from Qantas lately? No, and you probably won't for a little while). Safety is one cost they just can't afford to cut, tempting as it is.

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