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Has Qantas got its mojo back?

Is Qantas flying high again? What do you think? Illustration: Quentin Jones

Is Qantas flying high again? What do you think? Illustration: Quentin Jones

It was almost a year ago, at a press event to mark Qantas's resumption of flights to the Gold Coast, that Qantas Domestic CEO Lyall Strambi made the aside that "I get a real sense that Qantas is getting its mojo back".

That throw-away line struck me then and has stuck with me since, as the "Red Roo" has slowly but steadily battled its way back from "beleaguered airline" status.

Perhaps any measurement based on mojo is as nebulous as "the vibe" of the Australian Constitution, as conjectured in The Castle.

But like most Australian business travellers I take plenty of Qantas flights, and over the past year I've noticed a definite lift across the board.

And while the most recent Roy Morgan Air Travel Survey ranked Virgin Australia ahead of Qantas in clocking how satisfied business travellers are with each airline – Virgin sits at 86 per cent, Qantas at 82 per cent – the rolling results show Qantas has been on the up since February this year and enjoys its highest satisfaction rating since the middle of 2012.

Two years back, I'd have marked my Qantas report card with a C. "Has potential, but also much room for improvement", I'd have written. "Needs to try harder."

Now I'd hand the airline a B+ and and add a smiley stamp for good measure.

Here are some of the key areas where I consider Qantas has gotten back into its stride.

Lounging around

Starting on the ground, as all journeys do, Qantas has been busy buffing up its airport lounges.

That's important to business travellers because these lounges are our haven for grabbing a meal, a drink and a slice of time to get some work done before the flight.

You've only got to sample a few American airport lounges – or even some European ones, for that matter – to appreciate that we've got it good in the lounge stakes.

From the island dining options for breakfast and dinner at the domestic Qantas Business Lounges to the new Qantas Singapore Lounge, which is perhaps the world's best business class lounge outside an airline's home turf, I'd rate Qantas as a world-class player in the lounge stakes and winning the all-important ground game.

Up in the air

The shuffle of air commuters between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane accounts for the bulk of Australia's domestic business travel, and it remains much of a muchness.

(I honestly wonder if any airline needs to do more than Qantas or Virgin are already doing for flights which are often under two hours.)

The stakes are higher on the popular east-west route.

Virgin Australia still has the edge thanks to the spacious international-grade business class seats on its coast-to-coast Airbus A330s, but Qantas's all-new Business Suites look to be a game-changer.

These are fully lie-flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration so that every passenger has direct access to the aisle.

Look for plenty of room to work or sleep, a 16-inch video screen and ample storage space for your inflight knick-knacks when these seats debut late next year.

They'll also be appearing on international A330 flights to Asia, such as Singapore, Hong Kong (from Melbourne and Brisbane), Shanghai, Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila.

And while Virgin Australia's seat gives it a year's head start on Qantas in the transcontinental turf war, Qantas has enlisted Neil Perry to upgrade its in-flight meals on east-west flights, and the results are exceptional. This is Australia's best in-flight grub.

Card sharp

A few week's back I detailed the new prepaid travel money cards that Qantas and Virgin Australia are now issuing to their frequent flyers.

While the basics of these cards are similar, it turns out that the Qantas Cash card is the better of the two.

The exchange rates are surprisingly reasonable, with no fee to load money onto the card and shift it into any of eight foreign currency wallets.

Apart from a painful login system for the online Qantas Cash website – one which asks you to recall three specific characters from your password instead of typing the whole thing in – it's a neat fit for the overseas traveller.

Attitude to match altitude

More subtle but no less welcome, across all my domestic and international flights I'm sensing a sharper attitude from the Qantas cabin crew. It's more consistent, and more consistently good.

Frequent flyers know that regardless of how well everything else in the chain rates, service is where it can all fall apart.

And while I've rarely experienced bad service with Qantas, something has seen the standard of service step up a notch.

It's hard to define. Maybe it does come down to that elusive "mojo".

But from my perspective, Qantas isn't quite the punching bag it used to be. Instead, it's now punching closer to its fighting weight. And that's got to be good thing for all travellers.

David Flynn is a business travel expert, editor of Australian Business Traveller and an independent observer of the Australian aviation industry. He has travelled as a guest of Qantas in the past, as well as numerous other airlines.


Twitter: @AusBT


  • Things are improving on the whole, but some things still need attention, particularly the hard nosed attitude about Frequent Flyer status renewals when you fall short by a few points due to QANTAS cancelling flights (etc)

    Loneliness of the Long Distance Air Traveller
    Date and time
    September 17, 2013, 12:46PM
    • Sorry, LLDAT, but rules is rules. Imagine having to deal with the appeals by every flyer who missed-out on status by 10, 50, 100 SC. Where do you draw the line?

      I can't imagine that a cancelled flight causes people to miss-out all that often, unless the pax is flying on or very close to their reassessment date.

      You can't always get what you want, and life isn't fair. The better-half and I dumped QFFF for AAdvantage years ago, and have never looked back. OW emerald is OW emerald, right? And the AAdvantage burn-rate for rewards is markedly less that QFFF

      Date and time
      September 17, 2013, 1:30PM
    • Hi,

      Sorry I can't agree with the article and see little of the observations noted, perhaps with exception on the lounges.

      I fly regularly, likely more than most and normally in economy. I don't find the service at the levels of Emirates and Singapore airlines. In fact, just last week I was on the way to HK and was left infuriated by the QF cabin crew attitude. I recently flew both a emirates A380 & qantas A380 long haul just 3 days apart and couldn't help but notice the Emirates plane, seat and set up as being quite superior. Not to mention the Emirates plane had Wifi.

      I think the biggest improvement I have seen is in the pre-flight stuff they have done online and for smart phones, such as checking in on your phone app.

      QF is improving, but it had a long way to go.

      Date and time
      September 17, 2013, 7:16PM
    • I concur LLDAT.

      Date and time
      September 18, 2013, 10:30PM
  • Totally agree. I don't know if its coincidence, but ever since Qantas invited me to be part of their customer review panel, whereby I can be brutally honest about every flight I take, I have noticed that the cabin crew have improved immensely. It's like they have all new people or have done some major attitude shifting..... Their domestic crew are now more like Virgins: friendly, warm and youthful. International crew on the other hand....... They haven't seemed to have had the same pep talk....

    Date and time
    September 17, 2013, 12:48PM
    • Agreed - the surly attitude from the domestic flight attendants has been replaced with, dare I say it, smiles, love and attention.

      I think Virgin as a whole has dropped the ball - their new BYO device for inflight entertainment is a shocker, not the least being the fact we didn't find out we needed to download an app until we'd boarded our recent Bali flight. The introduction of Business and Premier class without removing a row has squashed the rest of the plane - I'm 6'3" and I can barely fit on a Virgin plane now.

      Date and time
      September 17, 2013, 1:47PM
    • Agree with Magilla. Whilst I think their new BYO device idea is a great one and works well, they didn't advertise the service before I boarded my first flight that had it. If they had simply advised us somehow (e.g. a simple sign at the boarding gate or on the seat-tray table), I'd have happily downloaded it before takeoff and been much happier...

      Date and time
      September 18, 2013, 10:01AM
  • If Qantas wants its mojo back it should replace its CEO with Rob Fyfe, ex Air New Zealand. He is every thing Joyce is not.

    Date and time
    September 17, 2013, 12:57PM
    • I don't really care very much about whether Qantas has mojo or not... this silly notion that it's "our" national carrier died many years ago - and Alan Joyce was only the figurehead for years of protected and anti-customer practices.

      David Flynn says "Qantas isn't quite the punching bag it used to be"... and that about sums it up. I agree that's about the best anyone can say, and in the meantime whenever I can I'll continue to choose one of 6 or 8 other carriers in preference to the lame kangaroo.

      Date and time
      September 17, 2013, 3:31PM
  • Wouldn't fly Qantas again on principle, last time was @ 2years ago when we were all but totally ignored on a flight to Japan...and that sort of sealed the decision after the way the treated their passengers and employees ......amazing how seats have gone, flights are booked out when you want to use frequent flyers or even flyby points! nah not until there are some massive changes starting with that CEO!

    St Peters
    Date and time
    September 17, 2013, 1:02PM

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