Qantas has claimed to have performed better than rival Virgin on delays in September — despite months of it being the worst-performing airline in Australia.
The business said in its latest market update that its ‘on-time performance’ increased from 67 per cent in August to 69 per cent the following month.
While the numbers have yet to be publicly verified by the department of transport, it would prove a remarkable turnaround after slumping to just 45 per cent in July.
In 2022, the Flying Kangaroo has faced a string of problems, including huge delays at Easter, hours-long call wait times, and even a revelation that the cabin crew of a Qantas A330 were made to sleep across seats in economy.
Across the industry, school holidays have led to the worst delays on record in April, June and July as carriers battled pandemic sick leave, skill shortages, and bad weather.
However, on Thursday, Qantas claimed its current October cancellation rate of 1.7 per cent was “market leading” and “better than pre-COVID” levels.
The business said the improvement was due to both keeping capacity in reserve for difficult periods and investing in training and recruiting staff.
In total, it said it would invest $200 million for the remainder of the financial year to roster additional crew, train of new recruits and pay for overtime in contact centres.
It also said its new “conservative’ approach to scheduling means 20 per cent of its available seats will be left in reserve.
“This includes up to 10 narrow-body, six wide-body and four regional aircraft on standby across Qantas and Jetstar,” said the business in a statement. “This capacity can be gradually added back as certainty improves, and the additional cost is expected to be similarly temporary.”
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said “It’s been a really challenging time for the national carrier but today’s announcement shows how far we’ve come.
“Since August, we’ve seen a big improvement in our operational performance and an acceleration in our financial performance.
“It’s clear that maintaining our pre-COVID service levels requires a lot more operational buffer than it used to, especially when you consider the sick leave spikes and supply chain delays that the whole industry is dealing with.
“That means having more crew and more aircraft on standby and adjusting our flying schedule to help make that possible, until we’re confident that extra support is no longer needed.
“Qantas’ operations are largely back to the standards people expect, and Jetstar’s performance has improved significantly in the past few weeks and will keep getting better with the extra investments we’re making.”
It comes as the ACCC revealed last month how domestic airlines had been significantly reducing capacity to mitigate the delays and cancellations caused by staff shortages and sickness.
The competition watchdog revealed the cut in seats for sale during the last few months came despite the local industry hitting 97 per cent of pre-pandemic passenger numbers in June.
It followed separate Cirium figures that showed Virgin, Qantas, and Air New Zealand were named among the global airlines with the current highest cancellation rates.