Tuesday, July 28, 2009

QANTAS: An airline that doesn't give a sh*t about its passengers -- or anything else much

Qantas seems not to do any real maintenance on its planes and when the inevitable malfunctions occur too bad about the passengers. The story below is about Jetstar, the low-cost tentacle of QANTAS. Qantas is the same airline that recently had a near-riot on its hands in Perth after a very long and unexplained delay. They should enable passengers to phone someone in the airline who can actually be helpful -- including offers of a no-cost transfer to another airline. The EU has strict rules about compensation that airlines must pay to delayed passengers. For once, I think Australia could learn from the EU

A FRUSTRATED Jetstar passenger is urging travellers to prepare for the worst when flying with the low-cost airline. Glenn Cullen took a swipe at Jetstar after revealing his bad experience when flying with the airline for the first time:

THERE had just never been the need to use Qantas' cheaper, younger brother Jetstar. Until recently. The occasion was a 50th birthday weekend on the Gold Coast, and I was initially travelling from Sydney to Brisbane. Despite literally dozens of flights between the two state capitals each day across a number of airlines, this proved something of a task.

When I arrived for flight JQ818 to depart at 2.35pm I was told it would now be leaving at 6.45pm. No explanation or apology, just that it was delayed until that time. I discovered I could get a refund but this did not extend to the price of a ticket with another carrier; it would cost me three times as much to fly with someone else at short notice.

I could however attempt to claim a refund on the difference for a new ticket through Jetstar head office. And that's where the fun began.

Me: "Before I purchase my ticket can I speak to someone about the likelihood of actually getting a refund for this?"

Customer Service: "No sir, you have to post it in and try your luck."

Me: "But how do I know if I will get a refund in the circumstances?"

Customer Service: "I'm sorry sir, all I can do is give you an address."

As I have a function to attend that night I ponder my options. Pay up and hope for the best, wait for the flight or ring Jetstar. I ring Jetstar Australia.

After a 20 minute wait I get put through to someone in South East Asia who eventually also tells me to send in a letter.

Me: "Do you not have someone who I can speak to now?"

Customer Service: "No".

Me: "Can I speak to a supervisor?"

Customer Service: "No, I'm the most senior person."

Me: "Well, as the most senior person, can you tell me whether I would be likely to get a refund?"

Customer service: "No I can't."

Me: "Can I speak to someone else?"

Customer Service: "No you can't, I'm the most senior person."

Me: "Can you transfer me to someone at your head office in Australia?

Customer Service: "No I can't."

And so it went.

Eventually I'm told I can hang up and dial the Jetstar number again and if I press the first option I will get onto someone in Australia. I ring, wait another 20 minutes to get through and seem to be connected to someone in Asia. Again.

Me: "Can you transfer me to someone locally?"

Customer Service: "No."

Much the same conversation transpires before I eventually hang up. Sigh.

I sit it out for three more hours in the domestic terminal before re-checking in. Then I am handed a $10 voucher by a stonefaced Jetstar check-in clerk. I think to myself this may be some compensation – back as a nine-year-old when I charged out my time at $2.50 an hour. Be that as it may I take the voucher with me onto the flight.

Once I have boarded the flight is delayed a further 45 minutes due to two missing passengers. The pilot points out our collective frustrations should not be taken out on his crew as the flight staff were on standby and it's not their fault. He does not however offer a suggestion as to where said frustrations can be taken out.

To this point I have not raised a temper. Upon ordering some cheese and crackers from the food cart this changes. The exchange goes like this.

Steward: "That will be three dollars."

Me: "I'll pay for this with the voucher, thank you."

Steward: "You can't use the voucher for this."

Me: "I'm sorry?"

Steward: "This is valid in the terminal only."

Me: "Are you kidding?

Steward: "No – and it says that on the voucher. You would have had plenty of time to use it at the terminal."

I shake my head and double check classy, photocopied stub only available for use on day and not for the purchase of alcohol.

Me: "Can you tell me exactly where on the ticket it says it's only for use in the terminal?"

Steward: Looks at ticket, pauses and responds: "Well, you would have been told that when you were given it."

Me: "No, I wasn't. Are you making this up as you go along?"

Heather "Well sir, I wasn't there so I don't know whether you were told or not."

Me: "This is (expletive). I have to wait five hours for a one hour flight and you are squabbling with me over three dollars for some cheese and crackers?"

She looks at me disdainfully and offers a punchline that could have come straight from the movie Clerks.

Steward: "Well what do you want me to do, it's my day off!"

Me: "I think I'll take it up with head office."

Steward: "You do that".

Touche – if only there was a number I could call.

Later, a spokeswoman for Jetstar said the flight was "unfortunately delayed due to a technical issue" and refreshment vouchers were only for use at the airport. "We arranged for an alternative aircraft to operate this service, however, unfortunately there was a five-hour delay," she said. "As per our normal policy, we provided all passengers with vouchers for refreshments for use at the airport."

She said Jetstar sincerely apologises to Mr Cullen (the writer) for any inconvenience this delay may have caused him. "Passengers were also able to request a free move to another Jetstar service, or a full refund of their Jetstar fare, which we would have processed immediately upon his request," she said.


Monday, July 27, 2009

QANTAS again

The faults and failings never stop. Anybody who flies QANTAS these days is asking for trouble. Their maintenance is obviously close to non-existent. There has got to be a major disaster waiting in the wings

A LOSS of cabin pressure at 25,000 feet forced a Brisbane-bound Qantas aircraft to turn back to Auckland shortly after take-off from New Zealand, a spokesman for the airline says. The Boeing 737 was carrying 91 passengers and crew for the Saturday morning flight out of Auckland, but Qantas spokesman Joe Aston said it was not necessary to treat the malfunction as an emergency.

"The aircraft ... this morning experienced a subtle pressurisation problem at 25,000 feet (7,600m) on ascent out of Auckland," Mr Aston said. "The cabin was depressurising at a controlled rate but certainly not rapidly or noticeably to passengers. There was never any imminent threat to passengers, the crew or the aircraft." The incident would not have been noticeable to passengers inside the main cabin of the aircraft and it was not necessary to supply oxygen masks, he said.

The aircraft landed back at Auckland without incident and passengers were transferred to a different plane which arrived in Brisbane just under three hours late. "The original aircraft is now being inspected by our engineers in Auckland," Mr Aston said.


Friday, July 17, 2009

More on incompetent QANTAS management

And they are still in denial mode

QANTAS has come under attack for failing to support staff left to deal with angry passengers delayed by a lightning strike in Perth. The Australian Services Union says staff are still furious they were left without enough up-to-date information to pass on to passengers stranded when an Airbus A330 struck by lightning on approach to Perth airport last Friday, reports The Australian.

The aircraft, which was due to operate the red-eye service to Melbourne, was initially grounded for an inspection but was further delayed when the strike proved more serious than first thought. Passengers became increasingly angry because they were not being told what was happening and staff were forced to radio for police help when the situation turned ugly.

The union says staff were left exposed, powerless and intimidated by angry people and it was just a matter of good luck that there was no physical violence.

This view was disputed by Qantas, which said it believed staff were supported on the night by duty managers and operations staff. The airline said it had established an informal working group to investigate the incident and it was confident it could address some of the issues arising from the event.

ASU assistant branch secretary Pat Branson said her members were angry that they were continually forced to bear the brunt of customer anger about problems at Perth only to watch the airline do nothing about it. She said the latest incident was the straw that broke the camel's back. The union took the unusual move of publishing the Perth manager's phone number and urging customers to ring him personally to complain.

Perth airport has been a thorn in Qantas's side and a source of consumer complaints for years. Two years ago, the airline announced it would spend $50 million on its terminal to ease unpleasant congestion during peak periods, including the installation of QuickCheck kiosks, new security screening, an expansion to the departure lounge and a boost to its baggage systems.

But Ms Branson said passengers were still miffed that not enough had been done to solve problems at Perth and the facility was still subject to constant queues. "It's a mess," she said. "The facilities at the Perth domestic airport are the worst I've seen in Australia and they are more crowded."


Thursday, July 16, 2009

QANTAS does it again

You get the impression that they just don't do inspections and maintenance any more. A crash can't be far away. Sad to see a once-exemplary airline (voted second best in the world at one stage) sink so low. The deterioration in maintenance standards seems to have started in the latter half of the reign (2000 to 2007) of Margaret Jackson as chairwoman -- with a decision made in 2005 to send most maintenance work overseas -- ending up in amazingly bad Malaysian operators being given the work, for instance. We now seem to be seeing the fruit of that. A few skipped inspections might not matter, but if you keep skipping them it does eventually matter. Is Ms Jackson another example of a disastrous affirmative action appointment? Sadly, the new chairman seems to be very part-time, with lots of other fish to fry -- so would seem to be little more than a figurehead -- leaving everything to the cipher that is the new CEO. No strong leadership anywhere in the company any more so it is just drifting towards a cliff

PASSENGERS on a Qantas flight received a nasty surprise when water stored for the toilets poured from around the overhead bins. Flight QF25 was travelling from Melbourne to Los Angeles via Auckland, the Aviation Herald reported. The plane was flying over the Pacific when the water pipe supplying the toilets began to leak, causing water to pour into the passenger cabin.

The Boeing 747-400 was diverted to Honolulu Airport where it was serviced while passengers waited for two hours. The flight resumed with the same equipment after the plane was given the all-clear. The flight was delayed by five hours in total.


Friday, July 10, 2009

QANTAS has really lost it

Two current reports below. First episode: Fed-up passengers revolt over 18 hour flight delay in Perth. What with incessant mechanical problems and contemptuous treatment of their passengers they have become Australia's Aeroflot (the old Soviet airline). They were a first class airline once but no more. I would fly Singapore airlines now. THEY understand courtesy and efficiency. Nobody seems to give a stuff at QANTAS any more. I think they need former boss Geoff Dixon back. Not all his decisions were good ones but at least he seemed to be in charge. Has anybody ever heard of Alan Joyce, the present boss? That he is a former planning executive at the failed Ansett airlines hardly recommends him. General Cosgrove is on the board. Maybe he should get more involved somehow. He definitely is the "take charge" type

POLICE have been called to Perth's domestic airport to calm outraged passengers stranded overnight after their Qantas flight failed to leave. One radio listener, John, told radio station 6PR the A330 that passengers were screaming and yelling and Qantas staff called police after ongoing delays.

He said the aircraft had been hit by lightning on its way to Perth from Sydney and had been grounded until engineering advice could be obtained from France. Qantas confirmed the aircraft had been subject to a lightning strike and was ruled unfit to fly.

Passengers claimed they were kept in the dark with no communication from Qantas, leading to frustration and anger. Channel 7 reporter John Taylor said all media had been cleared from the terminal by Australian Federal Police amid rowdy scenes. Just before 8am, after waiting all night, passengers were told the flight had been cancelled and advised to go home and book new flights after 10am.

"A mate of mine has been stuck overnight, being told every hour that it will be another hour until they leave," one Perth Now reader said. "She has slept on the floor of the terminal, when she could have gone home and come back. 18 hour flight to Melbourne? No thanks." The passengers were angry that there was no provision for them to re-book their flights at the airport.

A Qantas aircraft has now been arranged to take the passengers to Melbourne via Sydney at 2.30pm, which will means the flight will have taken 18 hours. Qantas claims school holidays had meant there was a high demand on flights and it had been difficult to arrange alternatives.


Qantas Airbus A380 aborts landing at Heathrow Airport

A QANTAS Airbus A380 had to reportedly abort a landing at London's Heathrow Airport because of a problem with its front landing gear. According to The Aviation Herald website, Qantas flight QF-31 from Singapore aborted the approach last Saturday (July 4) due to a problem with the nose gear steering. A video posted on YouTube by a plane spotter appears to show the superjumbo performing a go-round at Heathrow before performing a safe landing on runway 27L.

But due to the jet’s to loss of steering, the A380 was unable to vacate the runway and had to be towed to Terminal 4, forcing airport operators to close the runway for about 30 minutes. The Aviation Herald said the A380 was repaired and headed back to Singapore after a delay of two hours.

The Airbus A380 is the largest passenger airliner in the world and made its maiden commercial flight from Singapore to Sydney on October 25 2007. The Airbus fleet has made headlines recently over a spate of incidents involving the Airbus A330 and A310 models...

Qantas said the incident was not linked to recent problems the Airbus fleet. [So was it a QANTAS maintenance problem?]