Travel nightmares notify Qantas

Industry-wide issues

When contacted for this article, Qantas correctly pointed out that it wasn’t the only airline struggling with a post-pandemic surge in demand for air travel – known as “revenge travel” – locally or overseas.

We believe that our relationships with customers are stronger than one bad experience.

Stephanie Tully, Qantas Chief Customer Officer

Airlines in Europe and the United States have faced similar difficulties in filling staff shortages. Irish budget airline Ryanair has urged the UK government to: enlist the army to clear up the chaos, while some US airlines even replaced in bus trips for airplanes on short routes.

But Qantas is Australia’s only full-service airline and carries the weight of 102 years of history. Customers expect good service from the company, so how much damage have the teething problems done to the “Spirit of Australia”?

Qantas Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully admits the airline was not as fit as it should have been in April, the biggest surprise being high absenteeism due to COVID-19.

Tully says Qantas has hired hundreds of new employees to fill the gaps and has been working to “flatten” the schedule during the day so as not to overcrowd the tarmac during peak hours before the June break. Rhett Wyman

However, the consequences are negligible. “Customer preference for Qantas hasn’t changed,” Tully says. “It’s recoverable and the brand is in a really strong position, and many of the customers I’ve spoken to understand that Qantas needs to come out of hibernation. But we also have to help them move forward.”

“Qantas is still one of the best performing brands. What we measure internally is brand trust and brand preference and those two things stand up to what happened in April,” she adds.

Roy Morgan ranked Qantas sixth in the list of most trusted brands in March; Qantas was ranked 15th in Brand Finance’s Top 100 Brands 2022 list; and it won the Trusted Brands’ 2022 airline award, the airline used to prove its position. These reviews were made before April.

Chief executive of the Brand Institute and associate professor at Griffith University Karl Treacher is more negative. Qantas was the fifth healthiest brand of pre-virus in the Institute’s 2019 National Reputation Health Report, but if the poll were taken today, Treacher says the airline “wouldn’t be in the top 50.”

“The expectations of brand relationships have increased significantly in the digital age and COVID-19 has accelerated that,” he says. “So if we don’t get the expected level of service, it’s so much more outrageous now.”

“I think there will be significant damage to the brand in the short and medium term and that could end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Only 60 percent of Qantas flights arrived on time in April.

RepTrak Australia CEO Oliver Freedman doesn’t think Qantas has a reputation in crisis, despite some recent damage to its brand and reputation in April and May.

“It’s fair to say that the reputation is still strong, but has weakened a bit in that time, which isn’t surprising given that it’s been a rough couple of months,” he says. “There is misallocation of issues to Qantas. People don’t really understand that the airport is responsible for long security lines.”

Still, Qantas will have to end widespread cancellations and delays if it wants to prevent the brand from suffering further. Pressure is on Qantas to quickly cauterize April’s wounds as governments begin to monitor how often travel plans are disrupted, as evidenced by new regulatory edicts issued to their airlines by the UK government this week.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has already silently consulted consumers as it scrutinizes complaints about Qantas’ travel credit policy. Although the consultation is now closed, the ACCC had no update on the matter when approached.

There’s no excuse for the company’s failures, Tully says, and Qantas is working hard to ensure it doesn’t experience similar shocks during the upcoming school holidays in June.

“We feel really prepared and our #1 focus is to get this right. We know we have customers who don’t have the experience they deserve or expect. We have to get it right so they have the confidence to fly with us.”

Tully says Qantas has hired hundreds of employees to plug gaps and has been working to “flatten” the schedule during the day so as not to overcrowd the tarmac during peak hours for the June holidays.

Qantas says it has also reduced average call center queues — ranked by frequent flyer status — to less than 30 minutes for regular customers and less than five minutes for high-level loyal members, after increasing average wait times in recent weeks. hours increased.

Tired, overwhelmed staff?

When asked why the airline was not prepared for these issues before the April rush, given that they hyped the pent-up demand that would follow the pandemic for two years, Tully says Qantas was caught off guard by extremely high absenteeism rates as demand and activity increased rapidly. About 18 percent of Qantas’ workforce was out or about with COVID-19 in early April.

“Sickness absence hit much harder than we had planned. As we plan for the peak we’re going to now, we’re taking those lessons into account, so we’re match fit in June and July,” she says. “We’re already operating at pre-COVID-19 levels and the corporate market is also back, so the advance to this coming peak will be much less severe,” adds Tully,

But these promises will largely depend on a tired and overwhelmed workforce, who had already been eroded during the pandemic and still reeling from the chaos of previous months. Qantas fired almost a third of the pre-pandemic workforce, which unions say has resulted in significant loss of skills and experience.

National Secretary of the Flight Attendant Association of Australia, Teri O’Toole, says morale is very low, with cabin crew regularly calling in sick or tired for duty. “There is a shortage of staff every day. That hurts customers because there are fewer hands to serve them,” says O’Toole.

Furthermore, the federal secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, Steve Purvinas, said Qantas had not replaced one of the 300 engineers it lost during COVID-19.

“We are back close to pre-COVID-19 flight levels and not a single licensed engineer has been replaced. This means that there is not enough staff to operate the fleet. Ongoing delays will continue,” Purvinas said. “Our members are tired, overworked and stressed.”

Qantas did its best in April to ease the burden by recruiting executives to help ground handlers load aircraft with passenger baggage, but unions are skeptical of how far that went to address the problems.

Tully says Qantas has the right staffing level to execute on its schedule and will hire more employees as capacity grows. She is confident that Qantas will provide customers with the expected level of service during the June school holidays and answer any questions about its continued strength and brand.

“Our relationships with our customers are not a transaction, they are long-term relationships,” she says. “We believe that our relationships with customers are stronger than one bad experience.”

Perhaps, like Stolzenberg, they should reassess in a year.

#Travel #nightmares #notify #Qantas

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