COMMENT: Perth-based Qantas Frequent Flyer member Chris Frame says relaunch of Perth-Singapore is just one example of the Qantas’s new initiatives in Western Australia alongside investment in additional lounges, terminal upgrades and network changes.
Sitting in the Qantas Club last week, as the sun rises over the Darling Scarp, it’s easy to see how popular Qantas flights are from the WA capital. The lounge is full. There are three Airbus A330s and a congregation of Boeing 737s and 717s surrounding the terminal. Boarding calls ring out every few minutes to satisfy the early morning rush.
My flight to Brisbane is called. The aircraft is A330-200 VH-EBA. While it is the oldest A330 in the Qantas stable, it appears new; freshly refurbished with the world-class Qantas business suite and an updated economy cabin.
A fully-flat bed, a dedicated work space, plenty of storage and ample privacy, the business suite is a superb product and a very clear indication of Qantas’s renewed commitment to Perth and those travelling on the east-west routes for business.
Being an isolated city, air travel is a vital service for those living in Perth. Following increased competition from Virgin Australia, the red roo has invested heavily in upgrading its transcontinental services. Perth flights to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne are almost exclusively operated using A330s. While 737s are still seen on some weekend flights, the reliance on the Airbus twin is a further indication as to the popularity of these flights.
Internationally, Qantas has recently recommenced direct services to Singapore utilising Boeing 737s. This move answers a call from customers to have Qantas back on this route, and is made possible thanks to the airline’s recent push to better utilise its fleet.
The changes at Perth don’t stop with product and network improvements. Qantas’s Perth domestic terminals are undergoing a transformation which will see the facilities emerge as contemporary and modern 21st century terminals.
Perth Airport is in the midst of a long touted (and delayed) upgrade program. When complete, the Qantas Group will have exclusive access to Terminal 3 and Terminal 4, with Virgin Australia relocating to a newly built domestic pier adjacent to the international terminal.
Terminal 4’s overcrowded Qantas Club has been a bone of contention for WA-based frequent flyers for many years. While various changes have been made, including a series of extensions aimed to provide enough space for all, the lounge has well and truly reached capacity thanks to the increased passenger numbers travelling through Perth.
But come August this will all change, with a dedicated Qantas Business lounge to open at the airport catering for those holding a business class ticket, as well as Platinum and Platinum One customers, and significantly alleviate the strain on the existing facility. It will also mean that Perth will sport the same facilities enjoyed by travellers at Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The new lounge will add about 1,300 square metres of space and be accessible from Terminal 3 and Terminal 4 – important for the future plans at the airport given Qantas will eventually operate across both terminals.
Throughout the main departure area of Terminal 4 there are major changes unfolding. The dated space, largely unchanged since the days of Australian Airlines, is being rapidly transformed to cater for today’s travellers. New retail and dining options have been added, while tiled flooring, updated Qantas branding and improved directional signage makes the ageing terminal feel fresh once again.
WA-based carrier and Qantas subsidiary Network Aviation has recently come to the forefront of Qantas’s Perth operation. The airline group’s recent decision to replace Dash 8 flights with Network’s Fokker 100 fleet means more Qantas travellers are becoming familiar with the Network brand. This adds to more than 280 flights a week that Qantas Group airlines operate throughout the state and sees Fokker 100s operating for Qantas to regional cities such as Geraldton and Kalgoorlie.
Chris Frame is a Perth-based maritime historian, travel writer, author and lecturer.