Entries in qantas (4)


Qantas - 10 ways to fix a company without spending money

My Australian readers know the topic well, others will know similar companies.

Qantas is in a vortex of trouble and blaming everything from taxes, to exchange rates and unions.

They have never blamed themselves for their malaise.  Sound familiar?

I am a loyal frequent flyer, but…...

Although I understand there are limitations on budgets which affect the ability to provide new aircraft and so forth, the following measures would cost next to nothing.

I'm a Gold Frequent Flyer so I get treated a little differently, but I'm also one of their prized frequent travellers.

    1. Penthouse to the Doghouse

I get treated like a rock star at the airport with express lines and premium boarding, but once I get on board the ‘specialness’ disappears.  On a recent flight from Singapore I had free Martini’s in the lounge but then could not get a drink on-board (more on that later).

Don’t pick customers up and then dump them down. 

    2. Be precise with pricing

When I make a booking you charge me $7 dollars per passenger for a credit card transaction.  We all know the credit card fee is a fixed percentage of cost, usually 2%.  On a $350 fare it works out the same.  On a more expensive fare the airline misses out, and on a cheaper fare the customer overpays.  To the customer it always feels like they are being gouged.  So Qantas is potentially ripping itself off, and making the customers feel ripped off.

Look out for Lose-Lose scenarios.

    3. Technology - Do it well or not at all

Their phone app is terrible and all it seems to do is sell other services.  It’s become unusable.

Either do your technology with customer utility in mind or don’t do it.   

Don’t turn technology into an excuse for an ad.

    4. Keep up with the Jones’s 

The facilities in competitor lounges is simply better, especially things like segregated checkin at Virgin Sydney (and Qantas strangely has it in Auckland and Singapore but not Australia).

Customers notice what the competition is doing and are easily tempted.

    5. Don’t bore me

The first time you go to the lounge it’s awesome.  The second time OK, then after years of travelling, when you see the same food every day, you stop using the lounge and start heading into the food hall.  The special stuff has to stay special. 

Don’t confuse consistency with boring.

    6. I’m always important

As a frequent flyer, the lounge and boarding experience make me feel special.  Sometimes on an international flight I will get greeted as a Gold flyer.  When this happens (as it usually does with their partners like Emirates) I feel a little warm glow from being special.  But the problem is that it happens rarely on Qantas.  Once it happens, I expect it all the time.

When it doesn’t happen (usually), I feel a little less than ordinary, rather than special.

The same happens with express customs clearance cards.  Sometimes frequent flyers receive them, but most times not.  They will provide one if asked, but that’s not the point.

Once a customer is made to feel extra special, you have to keep it up.

    7. The free extras should not be rubbish

Most free things are terrible. On Qantas, the food is not free. I pay handsomely for food with my ticket.  So I don’t appreciate receiving something with the same quality as free.  If you have ever flown into Sydney at 6am and greeted with the oily tasteless concrete Danish served with orange juice, then you will know.   

    8. Either you are premium or you are cheap

There is no in-between.  

It’s well known now that to get a drink on Qantas is almost impossible.  There is one alcoholic drink with the meal and then just water.  Again, I paid for full service and expect at least to be asked. Don’t make me feel like Oliver Twist.  On a recent flight I pushed the call buzzer for a wine after dinner and had to wait 21 minutes for someone to answer the call, after which all I got was huff and puff from the staff member. (Yes I timed it because I run a Mystery Shopping company) 

    9. Give a massively valuable FREE freebie

I used to get upgrades.  Now - never.

Here's a big tip Qantas.  Occasionally upgrade your frequent-flyers to business class. It costs nothing and generates a mass of goodwill. It also won't affect your business class bookings. It’s such a wonderful surprise, and usually gets spread on social media in seconds (there’s nothing like posting a Business Class seat photo).

Apparently policy is to upgrade only if Economy is full.  Well Economy is rarely full anymore because you dropped the ball on all the things above.

All businesses should look for massively valuable goodies which cost next to nothing.

10. Zero Cost is not zero impact

Just because these measures don't cost money, does not mean they will not have an impact.  I now fly Emirates planes when I book on Qantas.  Thanks to their codeshare I fly an awesome airline and it costs me no more, though I'm sure it costs Qantas a lot.  These free fixes matter.  Just don't get too complicated and you'll be fine dear Qantas.


My disclaimer is that I don’t run an airline, I run a Mystery Shopping company.  What I know from doing over 30,000 evaluations per year is that customers crave consistency, but the companies who need my services most are the ones who don’t use them.  I wonder if that's why they keep bouncing around like a plane in a storm?  

Love you Qantas, loyally yours… for now.


Customers can't give meaningful answers to meaningless questions.

You need to ask the right questions.

When interviewing for a waitress, your not going to need to know their IQ.

When auditioning for a dancer, you don't need to know about their high school math results.

Stock brokers aren't evaluated on their fitness levels.

So why do big companies continually evaluate service on the wrong metrics?

When you book an airline flight online, you probably want a good price and an easy to navigate website.  The website, price and brand 'are' the product.

Service is important when it comes to the checkin and flight, but not while your negotiating the website.  So why would an airline like Qantas ask the following question after making an online booking?

"How likely are you to recommend booking and managing your Qantas travel directly with Qantas to friends and collegues based on your recent experience?" Scale 1-10.

It's a ridiculous question because the booking process is such a small part of the service experience.  Can you imagine using an airline website and being so blown away that you would say the following?

"Hey Bill, next time you travel overseas you should book on Qantas.  Their website blew me away.  It so awesome" ....... What rubbish.

Companies continue to use Net Promoter Scores (like Qantas) in the wrong situations, because it's a) inexpensive, and b) not intrusive for the customer (hey it's only one question right?). Wrong.

If you want to limit survey to one question, perhaps ask a more pertnent questions; and rotate the questions.  Maybe ask something like these questions.

  • Rank how easy it was to make your booking online?
  • Based on your experience today, for a similar booking, how likely is it that you would book again online?
  • Do you feel you got a better deal booking with Qantas direct online?
  • Did you also get a quote from another website or travel agent for this booking?
  • Do you feel added security by booking on Qantas directly?

Customer Feedback measurement should be based on appropriate questions. The Qantas questionnaire got even less relevant when they asked a follow-up question:

"Why did you give the above score?"

How can a customer give a meaningful 'why' to a meaningless question?  Either the data collected will be unuseble and wasteful, or it will be used as the basis of bad decisions (even worse).

Are you asking useless questions of your customers?

See also: Should you use Net Promoter Scores?


Serving through the cloud of ash


This was the SMS message which confronted many thousands of travellers in Australia this week – including me.

Some industries, like the airline industry are in the business of “Transactional Service”.  Transactional Service is easy and inexpensive when things go right, but the brand service reputation is determined by how they react when things go wrong.

When you take a flight or catch a train, the service is almost invisible.  You can go through the whole experience without speaking to an employee - just auto check-in, takeoff, and land.  But service remains critical, especially when things go wrong.

When an event such as an ash cloud disrupts services (or you simply lose baggage), the brand will be defined, for better or worse.

The approach by most Australian airlines during the recent crisis was to send an SMS message, like the one I received above, and then NO other communication.

Being in the centre of the storm, I  felt the frustrations first hand.

  • We were told about the initial cancellation.
  • We had to listen to the news to get updates (third person).
  • We were told to call a toll free number, but getting through was impossible.
  • We were told to check the airline website which only had generic information, and is not accessible to everyone (especially when driving in the country).
  • We were not told how to re-book once the cloud lifted.
  • We were told to go to the airport, but it was chaos.
  • Passengers were left feeling out of control.

What could have been done better.

  1. Send SMS messages and emails to passengers frequently advising the generic ash cloud update.
  2. Send SMS messages and emails advising the re-booking process (e.g. go to airport).
  3. Post the same information on the website.
  4. Advise the order of re-booking (eg frequent flyers, aged, with children or whatever)
  5. Send same updates to all travel agents.

It’s simple, but it would free up the toll free number for people who didn’t receive the communications, and those in urgent need.

Things go wrong in every business.  How could you communicate better to customers when things don’t go wrong?

I ended up driving 900 kilometres to get home.  It was quicker and I controlled my own destiny.



How Revenue can be killed by efficiency

So what do Qantas and Elvis have in common? 

The answer is in the economic Supply and Demand curve, which does not always work as it should.

The theory is that as supply decreases, then prices increase.  If you are the only person selling Elvis memorabilia on eBay, you can fetch a high prices.

Some airlines such as Qantas are using the same philosophy.  When executives are rewarded on efficiency of stock price and resources, then crazy things can happen.

Using Qantas as an example.  From Sydney Australia, they used to fly all over Europe to places like Rome, Paris, London and Frankfurt.   Like all airlines, in order to be efficient, they have codeshare deals with other airlines.  All flights now go to Frankfurt or London for connections.

So to fly to Istanbul, Turkey you fly over Istanbul to Frankfurt, then connect to Turkish airlines for a 3-4 hour flight back.  Oh and instead of paying $2,500.00 you get to pay an extra $1,000.00 for the privilege.

Loyal frequent flyers who are prisoners of their programs are paying more money, for a more torturous flight, for worse in flight service, and get to pay an extra 40% for the privilege.  And the flights are packed – in fact a last minute booking through London (not that anyone would want to) is impossible.

Sounds like good business.  What’s the problem?  Flights are full and they are charging a premium.  The executives would be thrilled because they are meeting KPI’s.  However, there is a big problem.

Eventually whole groups of loyal customers (I am on the second highest tier) stop flying.  Eventually it gets to be too much.  Last year a similar situation caused me to fly Singapore airlines (wow!) and in two weeks I am taking Emirates.

My (forced) loyalty has been broken.  Eventually you cannot take anymore.  An the drop in business comes suddenly, without warning.  A point is reached when you have the most efficient business in the world, but you are doing the least business.

Higher price does not mean higher service.  Sometimes higher price is just… higher price.  When value is lost, the business follows.