As a Qantas Frequent Flyer based in Perth, writes Chris Frame, yesterday’s cessation of international services is a sad reality that still seems quite unbelievable.
In the 1990s, customers from all Australian capital cities could board a Qantas aircraft and fly to variety of destinations without changing carriers. Destinations accessible from Perth included Rome, Paris, London, Mumbai, Jakarta, Hong Kong and Singapore.
We’ve all witnessed the gradual decline of Qantas over the past decade. Recent developments have seen a rapid reduction of Qantas services that even the most casual ‘armchair critic’ can’t help but notice.
Early last year, Perth based travellers could still fly aboard a Qantas aircraft to Singapore and Hong Kong, connecting onwards to London and Frankfurt, while a direct service to Japan was still offered as recently as 2011.
Perth passengers had access to Qantas services aboard Qantas aircraft, allowing Frequent Flyers all the perks that come with the program. This included the ability to upgrade using points, pre-book exit seats and earn Qantas frequent flyer points & status credits on a 1:1 basis.
Since Qantas’s 2013 alliance with Emirates, and subsequent relocation of its hub to Dubai, Perth international services run by Qantas have been decreasing. At the time of the alliance, Qantas handed over its Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane European routes to Emirates on a code-share agreement. This was followed by the cancellation of Perth to Hong Kong services, leaving Singapore as the only Qantas international route out of Perth.
Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce recently stated that Qantas still connects “WA to 58 international destinations through Emirates, Jetstar and our OneWorld partners.”
This statement is at the crux of the confusion that seems to have taken hold at Qantas. What Qantas management doesn’t seem to understand is that loyal Qantas customers fly Qantas because they want to fly Qantas. The shrinking Qantas network has forced them to move their business to other airlines not because they wanted to, but because Qantas has forced them to.
To counter the cuts, Qantas touts their Emirates alliance as a benefit to customers. I regularly receive emails from Qantas telling me how the alliance is a benefit for me.
But if you scratch the surface, the alliance doesn’t offer Qantas’s Perth customers the same benefits we had when Qantas still operated its own aircraft from the WA capital. Benefits lost include:
- Qantas passengers travelling on an Emirates aircraft cannot use points to upgrade so Perth customers can’t redeem upgrades on direct flights to Europe, the Middle East or Asia operated by Emirates,
- Customers are no longer able to book Premium Economy as Emirates does not offer a Premium Economy cabin on any of their planes,
- Emirates does not allow customers to pre-select exit row seats, which was a great benefit when booking long-haul on a Qantas operated service.
For Perth customers, this discrepancy in service offering is exacerbated when booking flights to Asia. Qantas is currently in the process of assisting passengers holding tickets to Singapore to re-book on its budget offshoot Jetstar Asia.
Jetstar Asia’s offering is vastly different to that of Qantas, with no business class, no inflight entertainment and meals at an added cost.
Furthermore, Qantas’s recent move to devalue the oneworld partnership, with the reduction of points and status credits earned on oneworld airlines, has made it even harder for Perth customers to maintain their Qantas Frequent Flyer status; particularly those flying into Asia.
Virgin Australia, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qatar and Malaysia Airlines are all the beneficiaries of Qantas’s abandonment of Perth, and rightly so. While these other carriers are fighting for our business, Qantas has run up the white flag and walked away.
The sooner that Qantas management reconnects with its Perth customers and realises that no level of marketing speak can convince us that a Jetstar aircraft is the same as a Qantas aircraft, or that the loss of benefits when flying Emirates is a positive, the better. Only then can Qantas ever hope to return to Perth with enough customers willing to welcome it back.
Chris Frame is a Perth-based maritime historian, travel writer, author and lecturer.