Sell it, close it down, bankrupt it, do anything…just make it go away please ;-)

Would you like some bad service with that crash?

Would you like some bad service with that crash?

We all have favourite hobby-horses – subjects that push our buttons that we love to espouse long and passionate opinions about. Things that drive us mad, make us angry and things that make us think ‘If I were King (Queen) of The Universe, I’d fix that little wagon…I’d do something about it quick smart!’

Right now there’s yet another controversy surrounding Australia’s national airline – Qantas. Well, it was our national airline but the Government sold it and now it’s run by evil greedy corporate types – very Gordon Gecko kind of thing. Some years ago, it was christened ‘The Evil Empire’ by people I knew I thought the name very apt.

The latest controversy is about a new charge of up to $160 if you want to choose an exit row seat. Qantas is a full service airline with full service prices – they’re not like Ryanair or Easyjet. Discount airlines charge rock bottom ticket prices and additional fees for ‘extras’. Qantas charges full-service prices and certainly shouldn’t be trying to charge for extras like this. Particularly when they penalise people who are very tall and can’t fit into the pathetic 31″ seat pitch that Qantas offers as standard.

A story like this would be of little interest to me if it wasn’t the 528th time that Qantas has done something bad for it’s customers. The level of Qantas’ passenger service over the last 10 years has dropped dramatically. But the prices haven’t. They still market themselves as a ‘full service airline’ but their service and attitude is anything but.

I was a Qantas supporter for many years. I was a frequent flyer, Qantas Club member and tried to fly them as much as possible. I saw first hand the deterioration in service – not only on board but as one by one, the benefits of Frequent Flyer and Qantas Club membership were stripped away. Every change and development in Qantas over the last decade has been about making things more unpleasant for their customers and their staff.

Don’t get me started on their staffing policies. They’re supposed to be an Australian airline but they export jobs to other countries where labour is cheaper as much as they can. They’ve tried to outsource maintenance to cheaper countries with lower standards but have had to pull back after a number of safety and maintenance related incidents. The public reaction finally bit them on the arse big time.

Qantas used to blow holes in other airlines they just blow holes in aircraft!

Qantas used to blow holes in other airlines they just blow holes in aircraft!

Everything that Qantas has done this decade has been about trying to screw more money out of passengers whilst giving less…less service, less baggage allowance, less of everything in fact. Qantas management have successfully made flying – once something quite enjoyable – into something that’s unpleasant.

And they don’t discriminate against passenger types either: they treat their Gold and Platinum and Business Class regular fliers just as bad as the people up the back in cattle class. And with Qantas, it really has become ‘cattle class.’

Jetstar is another story – stranding passengers without refund or recourse because they made it to the gate with 29 minutes to spare instead of 30…cancelling flights left, right and centre not to mention rescheduling without letting customers who’d already booked know…. Also, some of their airfares are more expensive than Qantas itself on certain days and routes! Virgin Blue has shown how to do a ‘discount’ airline right – Jetstar just seems like an awful joke that Qantas is playing on the Australian public.

The list of Qantas’ own transgressions against their customers, their staff and even this country is way too long to list here:-  it actually deserves a book to be written about it. But the strange thing is that successive Governments have continued to protect Qantas’ virtual monopoly business. The normal rules of competitive business get bent and warped for Qantas – whatever they want, the Government of the day gives them.

I can see, as have many others, that Qantas has become an overpriced, badly managed, anti-customer company. They want more of your money and spend the majority of their time devising ways to give you less for your hard earnt cash.

The irony is that Qantas once had a reputation that most companies would kill for. They were one of – if not the – most respected companies in Australia. Like many other Australians, I was proud that Qantas was Australia’s national airline – the flying kangaroo. Now I’m ashamed. I’d be really happy if they were sold to Singapore Airlines or some other conglomerate. I’d be really happy if the board of directors and senior management were beamed to an island in the middle of the ocean – never to be heard from again. And I’d be really, really happy if airlines like Singapore and a few others were allowed to compete equally with Qantas on routes like Sydney – L.A.

Over the years I’ve flown on quite a few airlines around the world. British Airways used to be absolutely terrific until they started cutting costs. I loved Korean Air and Finnair – they both made flying enjoyable. Which, after all, it should be. Flying should be enjoyable and, as a customer, you should come away from the experience feeling good. And I think that’s one of the key things that angers me so much about Qantas and the thing I find so unforgivable: they’ve spent a decade making flying an unhappy and unpleasant experience. Not because of ‘changes in the market’ or ‘financial pressures’ but just because they decided they could get away with it. Monopolies unfortunately have a tendency to do that.

So, in case you hadn’t already guessed, I really, really don’t like Qantas. 15-20 years ago it was a different story.

A completely fascinating thing for me is the resilience of Qantas’ customers. They’ll put up with anything because of Qantas’ supposed ‘safe airline’ status and the national pride Aussies felt. For a long time, despite everything that’s happened, any bad (or should I say ‘real’) news story about Qantas would always attract a string of vocal defenders of the company. It was like ‘I still fly Qantas because they’re the safesr airline and they’re Australian. It doesn’t matter about the bad service or anything else they do – I still fly them!’ Seriously, how many companies could lay claim to those sorts of customers – ones who will not only put up with being treated like crap but will actually defend the organisation treating them like crap.

But I’ve noticed recently there’s finally been a change. It seems like the cumulative effect of Qantas’ actions and attitudes over the last decade has finally come home to roost. Not because of one crash story or one price surcharge – but because of a decade of stories, one after the other. I’m actually meeting people thesedays who choose and prefer to fly Virgin Blue – even with the lack of included food & beverage service, even if they have to pay an $8 surcharge for luggage etc. People are saying to me they actually and actively seek to fly Virgin Blue whenever they can. That’s a huge shift – a huge cultural shift in the Australian airline industry. More and more people – customers – are saying “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” (stealing from Peter Finch in ‘Network’) about Qantas.

The current story about Qantas’ latest anti-customer move just had me shrugging my shoulders ‘and still people fly them,’ I thought. But the tide has definitely turned. And I can’t help feeling that, in the absence of any wholesale removal of their board of directors and managerment, the Australian airline industry would be better off without Qantas.

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1 Comment

  1. Welcome to the world! Here in the good old US of A they charge you for your favourite seat on top of charging for your first and second bag. You have to be an elite member to avoid the fees (and this is for the so called full-service/legacy carriers) .

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