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Qantas: Farewell Perth, thanks for the loyalty – opinion

written by australianaviation.com.au | May 12, 2014
Chris Frame
A 2003 file image of a Qantas 767 and Singapore Airines 777 at Perth. Both flights were bound for Singapore. (Chris Frame)

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.

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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.”

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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.

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25 Comments

  • Dennis Rutzou

    says:

    While I sympathise with Chris Frame, surely he doesn’t expect QF to continue running a loss making service for old times sake. At least with JetStar, with their lower overheads, they can make a profit and the reality is that if they don’t make a profit they go out of business.

    Perhaps it is up to the Perth travelling public to support QF with their hard earned dollars and if not the reality is that they will need to use another carrier.

  • Jason

    says:

    I couldn’t agree more. This story isn’t asking Qantas to keep serving Perth for nostalgia’s sake it’s an outline that abandoning Australian capital cities is no way to grow an airline into profitability. Just look at commentary by reporters of late that Jet* a320’s are sitting paid for but unused in Toulouse. How they could be utilised in qF colours serving Perth into Singapore, Jakarta, Phuket, Bangkok etc etc.

  • Tony

    says:

    I agree with the premise put forward by Dennis that QF can’t provide a service for old times sake. However there are certainly many other reasons to provide a service to Perth, or at least substitute with a like kind (apples for apples, not QF for JQ). The point made by Chris regarding the inability of Perth FF members to use their points is a major one. A system whereby loyalty scheme members are unable to use their loyalty points certainly makes the scheme, and therefore the airline less attractive. It is often the case that people with a lot of FF points are frequent flyers,, go figure. And loyalty is a fickle thing.

  • Alan Flood

    says:

    I must confess on my flight from Brisbane to London last month, only one of the four sectors was operated by a Qantas aircraft in our booking. Flying EK on the A380 for the first time, I am truly happy to fly EK whenever I can. The differences in services between QF and EK on the London – Dubai sectors was very noticeable from simply things like moist toweletts and improved meal services on EK to the attentive cabin service.

    A complimentary upgrade by EK on the Brisbane to Dubai service was the cherry on top, and I might find it difficult to fly a QF service even if that means a reduced frequent flyer and status points earn on Alliance partners. The International sectors future depends very heavily on the Alliances that Qantas forms, Emirates is their best partnership thus far.

  • Bob

    says:

    Never fly on a Qantas ticket out of Dubai to Perth.

    You go on the Emirates aircraft but you can’t do online checkin at Dubai when on a Qantas ticket. This means you have to join what is usually the huge all destinations queues of workers checking in with their flat screen TV’s trying to take them back to their homes as hand luggage. All avoided if you go Emirates on Emirates.

  • Aubrey Adams

    says:

    My disaffiliation with QF international from Perth began back in 2000. Long-service-leave and a long anticipated round the world holiday (with a stop off at AirVenture, Oshkosh) soon highlighted QF’s shortcomings. We didn’t want to go the LAX, we were going to SFO but QF (at the time) required a PER-SYD leg the day before, then a long transpac SYD-LAX flight with no personal seatback entertainment, followed by a jet-lagged connection with AA to SFO. Then on the way home, we planned Rome as our last European port – with QF that meant flying FCO-BKK (the only Rome-Asia route they had), then MEL (because QF didn’t serve BKK-PER) and back to PER! No wonder the fare was the cheapest RTW on offer.
    So we choose SQ SIN-HKG-SFO; much N. Am flying with Delta and across the pond to Manchester, UK; land travel in Europe with a couple of (original) Swissair legs; finished off by FCO-SIN-PER. This was before SQ joined Star, but SQ, DL, and SR each owned shares in each other and provided a slightly more expensive, but extremely flexible, RTW service; and SQ had personal seatback entertainment on all its flights!
    Since then I’ve used SQ and CX extensively into Asia because just PER-SIN or PER-HKG without onward services meant interlining and complex points accruing. And for Europe it’s been always EK.
    If QF ever decides to fly where I want to go I might go back, but meanwhile …

  • Ella Delaney

    says:

    I must say it’s a terribly sad state of affairs. I think this can be broken down into two issues:

    1) Why can’t Qantas make a profit flying (it is after all their main reason for being) and…
    2) What makes Perth unprofitable?

    Looking at it —

    Point 1) Qantas’ ongoing questionable decisions have made it fat and unprofitable. Fleet choices, poor route decisions, capacity wars and the ongoing mgt vs staff fight have been it’s downfall. Running aged 747’s on routes best suited to 777’s and A330’s, letting the product get outdated, pouring $$$ into Jetstar and ignoring Qantas main brand. Also relocating the hub to Dubai was always going to hurt Asia services as I expect the majority of westbound traffic is headin over to Europe. Qantas dropped Rome due to SARS but never picked it back
    Up? Dixon said it was a hard choice. Why didn’t Joyce reinstate? Why don’t they fly their own aircraft to J’burg ex Perth now the SAA alliance is over. SAA’s product is inferior to Q’s and yet the planes are full every day. Why not rejig A321’s to run Perth into Asia – a VA style J seat would be fine. Why not run 737’s into ports like Bali or Jakarta ex. Perth where not everyone wants to sit in a sardine tin. So on and so forth.

    2) Perth is a booming city. There is money pouring out of the ground and news flash – WA people travel! And they travel well. Business class seats on CX, MH, QR, SQ are full ex. Perth. Full to the brim. And economy is generally packed too. And yet QF can’t make Perth work for business travel. Why – because one destination poorly timed with connections only offered on a half rate budget offshoot isn’t appealing to business. Why didn’t QF look at the PER-SIN-HK leg again, or on to Tokyo or on to mainland china. Run QF planes from PER, ADL and BNE into Singapore and then onward to other ports that passenges have to transit Singapore or other Asian hubs to fly to anyway. Short sightedness.

    The reason QF is unprofitable is because it doesn’t want to make a profit. There’s plenty of examples of end of line carriers that make good money by wanting the business.

    Well as of today my firm – who do most of our business in Asia – have rebooked our 100 regular J travellers not on JetStar but on Singapore Airlines and our travel arranger has just finished helping us all
    Set up Velocity accounts. Sorry Qantas but you left us not the other way around.

  • Ella Delaney

    says:

    PS – 100 travellers flying ex. Perth one leg 20 tims a year – some basic math:

    100 x 20 segments x $5000 a flight = $10,000,000

    That’s worth looking at isn’t it Q?

  • Regular pax on this leg

    says:

    What in heavens name is Joyce thinking ?
    If Virgin were half smart they would whack an A330 or 777 on a route out of Perth in their own right .Already Virgin is enjoying the SQ Arrangment out of Perth . Oh and having Travelled on Emirates 777 300 in catle class NEVER EVER again seats smaller than tiger s sandwich config although food and entertainment was impressive .Pity had to stand for half the flight to get circulation back .

    Cheaper now to fly Per Sing on Scoots biz class And come back on SQ if wish to save 1 nights accomodation in Sing .
    Smart move QF re Per Sing NOT

  • Richard

    says:

    Ella – love the science there. Makes no sense what they have done. Insanity.

  • Lauren Clarke

    says:

    Qantas lost me when they abandoned me in Bangkok having grounded their fleet.
    Virgin all the way now.
    By the way I have all of your books Chris and saw you lecture on QM2!

  • Yossko

    says:

    Just remember Qantas is more profitable IF it stops flying altogether. The assets are worth significantly more than the share price/book value. Mr Joyce is trying to make A profit for shareholders … not be a profit making Airline business.
    Qantas used to have a variety of significant profit business units… Engineering, Catering, Ground Handling, Executive Air (Biz Jet). All reasonable profit margins ….
    Now these business units are restricted in looking for revenue. So now without the external revenues that subsidized it’s own Airline needs, it turns out that it cost more to do it cheaply. And now Alan wants to cut costs to make a profit from a reduced revenue base.
    This new market Management style is beyond my understanding. In the old days, you made profit increase by better products.

  • Neale

    says:

    The demise of the PER to SIN service was inevitable when the timings were changed to an early afternoon arrival into SIN.

    QF did that (so they said) to offer better timings on Jet to India. My guess is that the hidden agenda was to drive as many Europe bound pax across to EK to avoid the near 8 hour transit in SIN. In that, QF’s strategy has been very successful indeed.

    I just hope the compensation they enjoy from the EK code shares makes it all worthwhile. I for one do not want to travel on EK unless I have to, nor do I want to transit via Dubai. I really want to fly QF, via Singapore, but that is becoming extremely difficult.

    I am sure many other Perth based companies have done exactly the same as Ella’s and more will follow. Let’s hope BA offer a OneWorld connection via SIN into PER in the near future as small consolation.

  • Regularly disgruntled Qantas passenger

    says:

    I do hope this is being published (along with comments) in the printed mag so that AJ can enjoy some common sense when reading it with his morning froot loops!

  • Tony

    says:

    Air New Zealand will be flying their 787-9 to Perth in October. Maybe they can on fly to Singapore.

  • Chris

    says:

    Probably worth noting that QF never offered Premium Economy out of Perth anyway.

  • Regularly disgruntled Qantas passenger

    says:

    Yes but they did Sin-LHR

  • John

    says:

    Chris Frame has said it as it is – well done
    The problem is with Qantas management and board who have set a destructive strategy that they appear unable to reconcile with the failing financial, operational and share market results. They have virtually wrecked this iconic brand and yes run up the white flag.
    There is no excuse and if it were not for the majority owner being the Government I am sure the board and management would have been kicked out before now by disgruntled shareholders.
    Do we have to witness yet another train wreck of an Australian icon before the reality of this shambles forces positve change?

    • australianaviation.com.au

      says:

      John, I don’t think the government is a majority owner.
      Cheers
      Andrew

  • Randle

    says:

    Qantas lost my business (weekly in business class) when they axed PER-HK

  • Cath

    says:

    Ouch, feeling jilted! As a long-time Qantas supporter based in Perth this decision pushes me right into the arms of another carrier – where is the love Qantas? Lots of FF points from work meant upgrades for holidays and that was great. There are cheaper domestic carriers which I will now be using – is that what they wanted? (The indifferance towards Perth was brutally felt not long ago when the 4.5 hr flight business class Perth Syd Perth didn’t have seat back entertainment. Yeah give that to Syd Bris 1 hr… bad form!).

  • Lauren

    says:

    So Sad 🙁

  • Craig

    says:

    I have been a Qantas platinum customer ever since Ansett collapsed and I have to say Qantas has always been slow off the mark with Perth. I spent time living in both Perth and sydney and I found it took them ages to get time tabling on the transcontinental sector right, yet we’re bashing out literature saying how much city flyer serviced capital cities.

    I tried va when they equalized my status a while ago, they had better service but not the planes or the frequency, but now they do.

    I prefer to go through Singapore for my travel os and most of the time I go to Asia, not Europe. I went recently to Stockholm and emirates did not even advertise QF tickets for sale, but Qantas are happy to offer Ek tickets on there website. I purchased business class through emirates $2k less than Qantas! I found the service clinical, they could not make drinks, and the food was crap. Dubai airport is just a big shop, and the lounge was just big and boring, in quite frankly old mans decor (same as the plane)

    How do I get to china, hong kong, Japan or Singapore on business? Not through Qantas, and certainly am not going to go via east coast and ad time. Even when I was still in sydney a few years ago, and came back from hong kong via Perth to see my parents, I went Cathay as Qantas were still running 767’s!

    I was part of a customer feedback clinic with Qantas, but they did not listen. They started sending stupid wanky magazines to platinum flyers thinking they were all snooty, rather than recognizing most were just average family orientated people that fly, a lot, and want service and recognition that align to that.

    They even have the most basic of Perth holidays, Bali wrong. Yes competition is fierce but I recently went jetstar, it was cheap, but cramped, crap timing, had to buy kids blankets, food, etc. no lounge in Bali. Fly virgin, new clean plane, roomy, put up the front, food ,entertainment, a smile, a lounge. Makes a a difference on holidays. When you fly 50 + times are year without your family, the times you do, you want them to get a quality experience.

  • Dave

    says:

    Great opinion piece Chris.
    I think the overall feeling is one of sadness, and frustration. A lot of people actually like flying Qantas for a number of reasons, but it’s hard to fly them when they’re not a choice.

    We in Perth have watched QF pull out of Tokyo, Hong Kong and now Perth over the past few years. They have recently stopped the codeshare with SAA to South Africa. Emirates is great if you’re heading to Europe or further, which is a win for them more than QF I guess.
    On the other hand, QF has lifted its game on East Coast services, the A330’s are great, the entertainment and service is constantly on the up, and they’ll soon have more terminal space in Perth. QF is a great choice for anywhere in Australia, sure a few $$ more than Virgin, but you get a TV and a meal and bags included, and dont get stuffed about like Jetstar have a habit of doing.
    So I guess we’re getting mixed messages.People who would choose QF and would like to support them, simply can’t because the choice isnt there.

    In some ways we’re lucky here with quality carriers to choose from. Singapore, Cathay, Malaysia etc all seem to have good frequency to their respective destination. And of course they all have a lower cost base than QF and we can understand that that, together with competition (particularly on the singapore route) would make it difficult.

    Being an armchair critic is easy, obviously not having the detailed information at hand to assess whether or not these are good business decisions. However, you would have to argue that abandoning a market (particuarly a high travelling one with strong growth) entirely is not a positive step. The Qantas (and Oneworld) choice no longer remains for Perth.

    At the same time, Virgin is making positive decisions. International flights to Bali and Phuket from Perth, good connections to Singapore Airlines, SAA and others. Etihad starting in July and VA moving to a new terminal on the international side, and buying Skywest all see Virgin really winning the battle for the west.

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