Qantas cuts flights as travel chaos continues

Australian airline Qantas is becoming more accustomed to apologizing for poor customer service and persistent operational problems, with a senior airline executive again apologizing for the airline’s recurring shortcomings. For the second time in a week, Qantas Domestic and International CEO Andrew David took part in a media interview to apologize and explain what was happening at Qantas.

Qantas still fails to meet passenger expectations

Qantas is making headlines for all the wrong reasons these days. To be fair, many of the delays, cancellations and customer service disasters are not the fault of the airline, but many are. With the airline promoting itself as a premium carrier and charging accordingly, the Australian public is far less forgiving of Qantas than they are of, say, a low-cost carrier charging very low ticket prices.


Earlier this week, local media carried stories and images of passenger queues stretching outside terminal gates and along access roads at major Australian airports. Last month, only 58.7% of Qantas domestic flights left on time and only 59.4% arrived on time. Nearly 1,500 Qantas domestic flights were canceled during the month.

Yet another apology from Qantas

Wait times to speak to Qantas’ notoriously bad call centers (mostly outsourced and located overseas) are skyrocketing again. Baggage is going AWOL, and aeronautical engineers, ground handlers, and catering staff (these last two groups are also nearly all outsourced) are all threatening strikes.

“My apologies to all your listeners,Mr David told Sydney radio station 2GB this week.We’re the national carrier, people expect a lot from us, we expect a lot from ourselves, and clearly over the last few months we haven’t delivered what we were doing before COVID.”

Mr David seems to have drawn the short straw at Qantas these days. Other leaders, including the group’s CEO, Alan Joyce, are on the back burner. At the same time, Mr. David published an op-ed saying sorry, went on breakfast TV saying sorry, and this week had to go on talkback radio to say sorry.

Ongoing customer service and reliability issues are tarnishing Qantas’ self-proclaimed image as Australia’s premium airline. Photo: Getty Images

Roads abandoned amid capacity cuts

Andrew David says Qantas is doing a lot to address its own shortcomings, including reducing domestic capacity to smooth its operational reliability. This is nothing new – Qantas had previously announced that it was reducing its domestic capacity during the Southern Hemisphere winter. Many of these capacity reductions have been achieved by reducing services on high frequency routes, such as Sydney (SYD) – Melbourne (MEL) and Sydney – Brisbane. But elsewhere around Qantas’ domestic network, routes are quietly disappearing from the map, including Mount Gambier (MGB) – Melbourne, Alice Springs (ASP) – Perth (PER) and Wagga Wagga (WGA) – Melbourne.

“We have reduced some of our flights this month, and we plan to do the same next month, given the operational pressures we are facing,” Mr. David said 2GB.

Ongoing bad weather on Australia’s east coast, airport labor and contractor shortages, and airport equipment technology are beyond Qantas’ control but are also contributing to the problems airlines. And Qantas is not the only airline facing challenges, but having long ago named itself the patron saint of airline excellence, Qantas finds itself under intense scrutiny.

“It’s a hard truth experienced by airlines, airports, air traffic control agencies and almost every business in Australia and around the world,” Mr. David wrote in his July 17 op-ed referring to chaos art airports and airlines around the world. “As difficult as the recent travel spikes in Australia have been, airlines and airports in Europe, the US and the UK are facing much worse impacts.

“Given that COVID and the flu will be ongoing, there will still be a few bumps along the way, but over the coming weeks and months, flights will be as smooth as before.”

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