Australia’s flagship carrier, Qantas, has recently introduced a series of measures aimed at improving passenger experience and addressing issues related to mishandled baggage. The airline has been taking steps to combat the mishandled baggage problem, as well as dealing with operational challenges brought about by increased staff sickness rates during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and flu season. These measures include extending transit times, modifying the booking process, reducing flight numbers, and increasing staffing. These changes are all part of Qantas’ commitment to providing passengers with a more reliable and efficient travel experience.
Addressing the Mishandled Baggage Issue
Mishandled baggage is a significant concern for airlines and passengers alike. Despite improvements in baggage handling since Easter, Qantas has seen its mishandled bag rate remain higher than pre-COVID levels. The airline recognizes that addressing this issue is crucial to improving the overall passenger experience. As a solution, Qantas has chosen to extend the minimum connection time between international and domestic flights at Sydney and Melbourne airports. This change aims to facilitate more efficient baggage transfers and reduce the likelihood of mishandled luggage.
The previous transit time between international and domestic flights was set at 30 minutes, but it has now been extended to 90 minutes. By allowing more time for baggage transfers, Qantas intends to reduce the risk of bags not making their connecting flights and ultimately enhance the passenger experience.
To further reinforce these changes, Qantas is updating its booking system to ensure that passengers booking online or through travel agents are only presented with flight options that offer the new 90-minute connection time. This modification to the booking process is expected to reduce the occurrence of tight connections and the subsequent inconvenience of mishandled bags.
Additionally, Qantas has adopted a proactive approach for passengers who have already made bookings with domestic-to-international transfers of less than 90 minutes at Sydney or Melbourne airports, starting from August 21. These passengers will be rescheduled to earlier flights at no extra cost, ensuring that they have ample time for their connections and reducing the chances of mishandled baggage. Qantas is contacting these passengers directly, and the majority will be transferred to an earlier flight on the same day.
Staffing Challenges and Flight Reductions
Qantas is currently grappling with challenges related to staffing due to higher rates of sick leave attributed to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and flu season. Sick leave rates have risen to approximately 50% higher than the normal rate, impacting the airline’s operational performance.
To mitigate this challenge, Qantas is reducing its flight numbers beyond the previously announced 10% reduction. This decision is intended to balance staffing levels and ensure that the airline can continue to deliver consistent service to passengers.
To enhance its staffing resources, the Qantas Group has been actively recruiting additional employees since April. The initial goal was to hire 1,000 new staff members, but the group has exceeded this target by bringing on more than 1,500 new hires. A significant portion of these new recruits has filled operational roles, including cabin crew, pilots, and engineers. This influx of staff aims to fortify the workforce and maintain service quality during these demanding times.
Gradual Return to Pre-COVID Standards
The Qantas Group remains committed to progressively returning to pre-COVID standards despite the operational challenges presented by the pandemic and flu season. The airline acknowledges that passengers have certain expectations when it comes to service quality and baggage handling, and these measures are designed to ensure that these expectations are met.
Qantas’ senior executives have been actively engaging in daily meetings to analyze the airline’s operations and implement measures to enhance its performance. Additionally, they have been spending time in key ports to better understand the challenges faced by operational staff. This hands-on approach allows them to identify areas that require improvement and take swift action to address these issues.
Currently, Qantas reports a mishandled bag rate of 9 in 1,000 customers, compared to the pre-COVID rate of about 5 in 1,000. While improvements have been made since Easter, the airline acknowledges that there is still work to be done to meet and exceed passenger expectations.
Focus on Safety and Service Quality
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce stressed the airline’s commitment to safety and service quality. He acknowledged the challenges faced by the airline and its staff and emphasized the importance of returning to the high standards expected by customers.
Joyce said, “While there are lots of good reasons why, the simple fact is our operational performance hasn’t been up to the standard our customers are used to, or that we expect of ourselves. We are taking additional steps to get back to our best, which have been shaped by feedback from our frontline teams who are doing a phenomenal job under tough circumstances.”
“Bringing our operations back to pre-COVID standard and maintaining our focus on safety is our absolute priority,” Mr. Joyce added.
In conclusion, Qantas is actively addressing the challenges brought about by the ongoing pandemic and flu season, with a focus on improving baggage handling, reducing flight numbers, hiring additional staff, and enhancing safety and service quality. These measures are part of the airline’s commitment to providing passengers with a more reliable and seamless travel experience while also supporting its dedicated staff during these challenging times. By implementing these changes, Qantas aims to regain its reputation for quality service and meet passenger expectations.