Saturday, February 27, 2010

Qantas in breach of safety laws

WORKCOVER has ordered Qantas to develop emergency procedures for its Sydney domestic terminal after finding the airline in breach of safety laws for failing to train or drill staff on what to do in a disaster.

As the federal government sharpens its focus on the threat of terrorism and seeks to strengthen aviation security, airport staff told the Herald they had not taken part in an emergency drill since 2001.

The chief executive, Alan Joyce, was served with two improvement notices by WorkCover NSW this week that show the airline in breach of workplace safety legislation.

Inspectors had found a safety risk at Terminal 3 because Qantas had provided staff with inadequate information and training on fire or emergency arrangements, the first notice states. The airline has been told to implement safety systems and ensure emergency drills take place.

A second notice found baggage handlers were at risk of injury because there were inadequate numbers of staff loading and unloading aircraft luggage.

A Qantas spokesman yesterday acknowledged WorkCover had issued the notices. ''We welcome this scrutiny. Action plans have already been developed to work with our people to address the issues raised,'' he said.

''We have always had detailed emergency procedures and training in place at Sydney domestic terminal including annual evacuation exercises …'' But an airport worker, who did not want to be named, said that before a fire drill on Friday in response to WorkCover's inspection, he could not recall any emergency drills in his section since 2001. Staff who had joined since had not even been told the location of the emergency assembly point.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jetstar finally gets the message


Australia's biggest low-cost airline has revealed it has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past year retraining staff to reduce the number of complaints about bad customer service.

The airline unveiled a customer charter last week known as the "Jetstar Customer Guarantee" following a call by the federal government in its aviation white paper, released in December, for airlines to improve customer service to avoid new laws setting minimum standards.

The new charter follows the stranding of nearly 300 Jetstar passengers in Phuket, Thailand, in late January because of an aircraft technical issue. Jetstar's chief executive, Bruce Buchanan, estimates the stranding cost the airline more than $1 million - "an incredibly expensive exercise", including the cost of flying a replacement aircraft empty from Australia to pick up the stranded passengers, refunds for 290 passengers of the full cost of their tickets and two days' accommodation in hotels.

The generosity of the airline's compensation surprised many in the industry, after previous strandings when passengers were offered vouchers for as little as $50.

Apart from refunds of fares averaging $1000 a person, Jetstar offered compensation of $600 a person, as well as extra accommodation costs and an apology to each passenger affected.

In the white paper, the government demands airlines draw up a passenger charter with higher standards of care, following a surge in complaints since the emergence of low-cost airlines.

Buchanan says the airline has started a staff training exercise, "The Jetstar Way", aimed at overhauling customer relations. "Behind the scenes, there's been a lot of work going on on the customer side," he says. "We've been trying to build up our ability to much better deal with these situations [delays] and solve problems in a really proactive way and not be on the back foot. We've done some work on the compensation policy when we get these extreme delays, especially when we're in a remote port and it's hard to organise recovery options.

"We've also done a lot of work on our customer relations area to improve responsiveness [to complaints]. With complaints, we had been getting up to 80-90 days [to reply to customers] 12 to 18 months ago."

Buchanan says the customer guarantee will commit the airline to acknowledge online complaints within 24 hours and to respond within 15 working days. "We're really excited and proud to be the first airline in the region to introduce a customer guarantee which reinforces our commitment to customer service," he says.

"The Jetstar Customer Guarantee will be an evolving and living document that will be constantly reviewed. "This will be supported by a customer and staff engagement program, including a newly established panel involving customers and staff and consultation with consumer advocacy experts."


Friday, February 19, 2010

Sardine airlines

Qantas squeezes 100 more seats on to A380s

QANTAS says passenger comfort will not be compromised by its profit recovery plan to increase passenger numbers on its long-haul A380 super jumbos to 550 people.

The airline will add 100 extra seats to 12 of its airborne mammoths. It will also lift passenger numbers on nine Boeing 747s, from 305 to 359, ending the golden era of luxury air travel.

High-cost first-class cabins aboard both model airlines will be carved up to make way for extra business class and premium economy seating.

Alan Joyce, the airline's chief executive, said yesterday it was inevitable fares would rise this year.


Qantas jet makes emergency landing in Sydney

More of that brilliant QANTAS maintenance?

A QANTAS jet carrying nearly 200 passengers has made an emergency landing at Sydney Airport after its landing gear failed to retract following takeoff.

The Airbus 330 jet bound for Shanghai departed about noon (AEDT) today from Sydney and was unable to retract its landing gear, a Qantas spokesman said.

The plane, carrying 197 passengers and crew, was forced to circle over Sydney for more than two hours and burn off fuel before landing safely at about 2.45pm (AEDT).

Qantas said the plane did not dump any fuel but circled in order not to exceed the maximum landing weight.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Qantas posts huge fall in profits

It couldn't happen to a more deserving airline

QANTAS has posted a net profit for the first half of 2009/10 down 72 per cent, but expects to post an underlying profit for the full year of $300-$400 million.

Qantas reported an underlying profit of $267 million for the first half of 2009/10, saying the company remained profitable, unlike many airlines. Reported profit was $58 million, down from $210 million in the first half of 2008/09.

Qantas chief financial officer Colin Storrie says the airline's first half result is probably the lowest first half profit on record. "In terms of the half year, last year was obviously lower than that in terms of statutory for the second half of last year, but obviously for a first half result I think that's pretty much the lowest statutory result that we have had," he said.

Sales and other income were $6.909 billion, down from $8.068 billion in the prior corresponding half year.

Qantas declared no interim dividend, however, and said dividends in future would depend on "ongoing earnings performance and capital requirements".

Qantas said its statutory profit before tax was $90 million for the half year, which it said was in line with guidance of a range of $50 million to $150 million.

Qantas chief executive officer, Alan Joyce, said that Qantas had been profitable while the global aviation industry remained in loss. "According to IATA, the world's airlines will record net losses of US$5.6 billion in 2010," Mr Joyce said.

"While the operating environment has been unprecedented and challenging, this result reflects the strength and diversity of our operations."

Mr Joyce said Qantas had benefited from its two-brand stategy. "Our two-brand strategy, focused on growing the full service, premium Qantas and low fares Jetstar, is not only delivering benefits to our customers, but also to our shareholders," he said.

"Qantas, in particular, has benefited from the capacity reductions and restructuring activities implemented since April 2009, with substantial cost savings achieved during the current half year

"Jetstar continues to provide the Group with true diversity, and our broader portfolio of assets with a unique strength and range of revenue growth opportunities."

Mr Joyce said uncertainty remained, particularly in international markets, industry capacity, passenger and freight demand, and high levels of volatility in fuel prices and exchange rates continued. "At current prices, fuel costs are expected to be approximately $200 million higher in the second half compared to the first half," he said. "In addition, depreciation costs will be approximately $50 million higher in the second half due to a reassessment of aircraft residual values.

"Subject to no further significant change in market conditions and fuel prices, Qantas expects Underlying profit before tax for the full year ending 30 June 2010 to be in the range of $300 - $400 million.

"In this context, coupled with significant capital expenditure program associated with fleet renewal, the Board considers it prudent not to pay an interim dividend, and future dividends will be assessed against ongoing earnings performance and capital requirements." ...

Mr Joyce said key drivers of the result had been weaker domestic and international demand and lower fuel surcharges that led to a 14.9 per cent decline in yield, lower capacity partially offset by an increase in seat factor (load) of 2.7 points, average fuel prices 38 per cent lower in the half-year, which contributed to a net $486 million decline in fuel costs, and activity cost savings and benefits from prior year restructuring which contributed to an 11.0 per cent fall in operating expenses (excluding fuel).

Non-recurring items were aircraft write-downs of $48 million related to changes in the recoverable value of a number of wide-body aircraft held for sale following capacity reductions announced last year.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Jetstar finds missing laptop then loses it

And it took publicity to squeeze any decency out of them

KIRSTEN Moro left her laptop on a Jetstar plane. Jetstar found it but it was stolen before reaching Lost Property.

Ms Moro said that given the laptop went missing in the airline's care, she felt she should be compensated. Jetstar, however, said it required passengers to be responsible for their carry-on luggage.

Jetstar said the laptop was not taken by one of its staff. Its disappearance was now a police matter, the airline said.

And it's disappointing that Jetstar told me more about what's going on than it told Ms Moro, who has made nine calls to the airline over two months.

Today, Jetstar launches a customer charter that includes responding to customers within 10 days. The charter is also meant to offer improved problem resolution. "Obviously we wouldn't have lived up to it," Jetstar CEO Bruce Buchanan told me.

Ms Moro was offered a return trip anywhere on the Jetstar network, and last night Jetstar decided to compensate her instead.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Scheduled Jetstar flights may be cancelled at short notice if Jetstar feels like it

Not enough passengers, you don't fly

JETSTAR has told passengers not to rely on being able to fly on the date their flight is booked.

As stories came in about cancelled flights last week between Darwin and Bali, the latest in a long series of troubles for travellers, the airline admitted it sometimes cancels flights "for commercial reasons", the Northern Territory News reports.

Other carriers do not guarantee flight times - Qantas and Virgin Blue say as much in their terms and conditions. However Jetstar is more explicit. Customers booking flights on the airline's website see a box titled "important information" that warns them their flight might not go on time. "The airline does not guarantee it will be able to carry you and your baggage in accordance with the date and time of the flights specified," it says.

"Schedules may change and flights may be delayed or cancelled for a range of reasons ... "Flight times do not form part of your contract of carriage with us."

Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway admitted there was a perception Jetstar suffered the most cancellations, but said this was an "urban myth". He said of 57,918 scheduled Jetstar flights last year, 57,288 of them flew. He said the 630 cancellations was the lowest rate of any airline in Australia.

But Mr Westaway said flights had been cancelled because not enough tickets were sold. "Sometimes flights are folded in for commercial reasons," he said. "For instance, in down seasons ... in times of down periods where the market has contracted. "All airlines do it to a degree."


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More of that high quality QANTAS maintenance again

A PASSENGER has revealed her fear at being stuck on a hot plane with 116 other people while a pilot attempted unsuccessfully to start it. The incident occurred on board flight JQ843 from Hamilton Island to Sydney at 1:50pm on Friday. Traveller Lepa Flaiban said passengers were stuck on the hot, stuffy A320 aircraft while the pilot tried to start it.

“The plane had no air conditioning and the heat at Hamilton Island was unbearable,” she said. “The pilot tried five times to start the aircraft and the plane wouldn’t start. We were then asked to leave the plane so they could start it manually.”

Ms Flaiban said the passengers started to panic after being told there was something wrong with the plane. “Everyone was very upset on board and very nervous.”

The passengers were then told to leave the plane and board another, which was scheduled to fly to Brisbane. The plane was turned back from take-off to be used by the Sydney-bound passengers instead.

Ms Flaiban said the approximately half the passengers from the flight decided to book with Virgin Blue instead.

Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway has confirmed the incident and said staff did all they could to minimise disruptions. He said the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit, which drives the air conditioning and other aspects of the aircraft, became unserviceable. The pilot tried to activate the unit but was unsuccessful and it then had to be recharged by the ground power unit.

The Sydney flight was delayed by one hour and 46 minutes as a result, and the Brisbane flight, carrying 76 people, was delayed by over four hours.

Mr Westaway said the airline moved to minimise delays to passengers by getting the Sydney-bound flight in the air as soon as possible to avoid breaching the airport curfew. “We were in a difficult situation and we apologise for the delay,” Mr Westaway said. “We had to meet safety standards and avoid a curfew breach at Sydney Airport, which would have led to further delays across the network. “We had a regrettable situation and we stand by the decision made. We handled the situation very well.

“Passengers should not be fearful in these situations.” [Really??]


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Stranded with children

When I was leaving Heathrow for Sydney recently, I was informed that my luggage would not be automatically transferred to my domestic connection. I requested assistance from Qantas portering staff for the short transfer, as I was travelling alone with a three-month-old baby, another child and six items of luggage.

After speaking several times about the issue to cabin staff on both legs of my international flight and receiving reassurance that I would be met on my arrival into Sydney, I was left stranded at the baggage carousel for more than an hour.

Despite assurances to the contrary, nothing had been prearranged and it was only by approaching Qantas staff several times that I was finally given some help.

By this time, I had already missed my original transfer flight and I had become distressed at the lack of help.

I still cannot believe Qantas would leave a mother with two children, who were also clearly distressed, in the middle of their main international arrivals area.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jetstar contempt for their customers again -- It never stops

Anger as Jetstar cancels Bali flight without notice

PASSENGERS waiting to fly to Bali were left stranded in Darwin after Jetstar cancelled a flight without warning. The Jetstar flight was scheduled for 7:30am on Monday but passengers were told the plane was in Bali for maintenance reasons and the flight had to be cancelled.

David Wilson, 52, arrived to fly to Bali from Darwin's International airport on Monday morning but was told the flight had been cancelled.

"Nobody told me the flight had been cancelled until I got to the airport at 5.30 in the morning," Mr Wilson told the Northern Territory News. "I am a frequent flyer gold member and fly to Bali 20 times a year, they have my mobile number and my email address, there is no excuse when they say they couldn't get in touch with me."

Mr Wilson said he had booked the flight one week ago and had paid almost $1000. "They are charging top dollar and then they don't even have a plane - service during the Second World War was better than this."

The engineer said he was planning on going to Bali for a fortnight and had his accommodation booked but Jetstar would not reimburse him for money already spent. "All they wanted to give me was money for the taxi to go back home but I had a hired car and I don't believe they will be paying for it," Mr Wilson said.

"Some people, who only wanted to go to Bali for a few days, had to cancel their whole trip as it wasn't worth going any more."

Jetstar spokeswoman Andrea Wait told the Northern Territory News the flight to Denpasar had to be cancelled due to an "unserviceable aircraft" but passengers had been offered reimbursements or later flights.

[And WHY was it "unserviceable"? It wouldn't be the usual low standard of QANTAS maintenance again, would it? And was there not another flight out of Darwin on another airline to which the passengers could have been immediately transferred? Or even -- perish the thought -- could they have had or hired a backup aircraft? Presumably Jetstar did after all know some time in advance that the scheduled aircraft would not be available]