Qantas Sales or Lack Thereof

There was an article in the Australian Business Traveller reporting on Tony Webber, an ex-Qantas economist who was suggesting in the Sydney Morning Herald that Qantas should levy an extra charge on passengers who, shall we say, are more fulsome of figure … OK, fat folks!

“People who weigh more should pay more to fly on planes, in the same way that people who exceed their baggage allowance must fork out extra” says Webber, now an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney Business School.

His rationale? The more a plane weighs, the more fuel it must burn – which directly impacts costs. (As we detailed earlier this year, fuel costs represent almost $300 of a $2,200 international airfare)

“If the critical weight limit (per passenger) is 75 kilograms and a man weighed 100 kilograms, then the surcharge would be $14.50 one-way or double this for return” Webber explains.

Right!

Well, it seems that Qantas (and indeed Virgin) rejected this idea today in an article, Airlines reject fat levy.

Want to know what one of the problems is with Qantas? Today I asked our traveller coordinator to book my next return flights, Singapore to Sydney. I asked her to check Singapore Airlines and Qantas for comparable fares on comparable flights. The flights?

Singapore Airlines carrier:-
11.02.2012 via SQ231, 00:45/11:50
27.02.2012 via SQ222, 16:15/21:20

Qantas carrier:-
10.02.2012 via QF320, 20:15/07:00
27.02.2012 via QF319, 16:25/21:35

Or

10.02.2012 via QF320, 20:15/07:00
27.02.2012 via QF031, 17:30/22:25

So – flights at roughly the same time of day. The result?

By Singapore Airlines:  S$1226 + tax S$453.80 = S$1679.80

By Qantas/British Airways: S$1558 + tax S$546 = S$2104.00

OK, so those prices are in Singapore dollars and represent travel on Airbus A380 or Boeing 777 aircraft. Qantas is S$424.20 more expensive (AU $318.00). Now, given Singapore Airlines Service levels, why would I pay $318.00 more to fly Qantas when I am never sure whether they are going to cancel flights at the drop of a hat?

Seems a simple equation to me really.

Qantas and British Airways Merger Talks

Do it. Really, best thing that could happen to Qantas. Give up the pretense and just fold. Qantas has aged and it has aged badly. I’ve been travelling regularly for over 20 years now and when I first started flying, Qantas was my airline of choice, even though the service level of the Asian airlines was greater. The reason? It was the safest airline around. I was kind of like Rain Man when travelling. I read the safety cards and knew the differences between aircraft and I even looked at and photographed the different liveries of the various airlines I saw.

The important thing from those early days was that I knew the flight attendants (they were still hotesses and stewards then) were actually not waiters but rather were safety officers first.

The Asian airlines caught up on the safety side and I started to travel on Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines amongst others as well as the likes of British Airways, KLM and Lufthansa in Europe. Qantas service improved but they never really managed to star at the service side of things, relying instead to trading on their safety record.

Now, things are changing. Qantas has had so many incidents lately that you have to start to wonder. Some have been blaming it on the off-shore servicing of the aircraft but realistically, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and so on, well, all their servicing is (from an Australian viewpoint) off-shore as well and they aren’t having the same problems.

I think that at all levels, Qantas has just ceased to care. Executive management are interested in selling it and that’s about it whilst the rest of the staff are more interested in where they will work when it is sold.

On a flight from Sydney to London in September, we had to fly Qantas. The return, London to Sydney, was British Airways. Remembering that the staff on the aircraft are there are safety officers first, compare the two airlines. On the Qantas flight we had left Singapore and were heading across the sub-continent, when we hit some turbulence. The seat belt light was illuminated and passengers asked to return to their seats. None of the flight attendants checked the cabin to make sure passengers were safely secured, they all just disappeared to their seats as well. Compare that to the British Airways flight we took back from London. Again, over the sub-continent we hit turbulence. The seat belt light was illuminated and then the flight attendants checked the cabin to ensure that all passengers were secured in their seat, even though the plane was bouncing around the sky.

Nah – don’t just merge Qantas with British Airways – sell the airline and be done with it.