Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jetstar cadet scheme under scrutiny

AUSTRALIA'S aviation safety watchdog has now put Jetstar under intensified scrutiny for its cadet pilot training scheme after another botched landing attempt.

The latest bungled landing occurred at Cairns airport on a flight from Sydney on November 3, when a cadet pilot selected the wrong flap settings, the airline confirmed.

When the captain, who was flying the Airbus A320, realised his cadet co-pilot had selected the wrong flap setting, he called for the landing to be aborted.

But the cadet compounded his mistake by choosing a wrong flap setting for a second time, upsetting the aerodynamics of the airliner for eight seconds.

Fortunately for all on board, the plane was at 1900 feet and the captain had time to recover the situation.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority yesterday shifted its vigilance up a notch. "There is now ongoing monitoring by CASA of the Jetstar cadet scheme to ensure it continues to meet the required standards," the agency said. "If circumstances change, CASA will take appropriate steps to ensure relevant safety standards continue to be met."

The Age believes substantial effort in the safety authority is now focused on Jetstar's operations, and the agency is prepared to act on the airline if necessary.

Jetstar's chief pilot, Captain Mark Rindfleish, said the crew "followed standard practice and discontinued an approach into Cairns after detecting incorrect flap settings". "Anyone at the controls of a Jetstar aircraft has the qualifications and skills to be there," he said.

But the incident has sparked more calls for an urgent investigation of the airline's fast-tracked pilot training scheme.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon, who initiated this year's Senate inquiry on pilot training and airline safety, called on CASA to launch an urgent investigation of the Melbourne and Cairns incidents.

"Two separate incidents just a few months apart would indicate that this needs to be investigated thoroughly," he said. "I've been approached by a number of Jetstar captains that have expressed concerns about the level of training of some of the cadets. "I'll be moving in the Senate, when Parliament resumes, for the inquiry to reconvene about these more recent incidents, to call CASA, the ATSB [Australian Transport Safety Bureau] and the Qantas group in relation to this."

The president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, Barry Jackson, said: "When events occur on a regular basis then there's an issue.

"They grounded Tiger for these sort of things. It seems to me to be continuing events that point to pilot training and inexperience. "CASA's the one that needs to look seriously at these events."

Mr Jackson said experienced first officers were baling out of [Jetstar's parent] Qantas to be snapped up by the likes of Emirates and Qatar airlines, at a rate of one resignation every two days, leading to the recruitment of inexperienced pilots.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau was notified but it chose not to investigate the Cairns incident formally, after it was satisfied that cockpit alarms were not triggered and that the plane was still at a safe altitude.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jetstar pilots sent back to school after flying too low on approach

This is the first Qantas/Jetstar incident for a while -- and it was NOT due to poor maintenance, unlike most previous incidents. Marvellous how the maintenance has improved now that the airline's boss has made it clear that he is prepared to shut down the airline. That the previous incidents were deliberate sabotage by unionized maintenance personnel certainly suggests itself in the circumstances

TWO Jetstar pilots have been ordered into remedial training after a misunderstanding between them caused their Airbus A320 to descend within 51m of the ground well short of Melbourne Airport.

It took two warning signals from the aircraft's safety systems before the Captain and the First Officer, who was at the controls, realised they were far too low on approach and the Captain aborted the landing, the Herald Sun reported.

Both pilots thought the other was responsible for looking after the altitude, sparking major concern from Jetstar.

The July 28 incident, similar to several instances which led to Tiger Airways being grounded, is being taken so seriously by Jetstar that it will become a case study in its pilot courses.

It happened as the Airbus A320 was making its final approach.

The official report said the First Officer was concentrating on the aircraft's runway alignment and its positioning for landing, relying on the Captain for decision making and awareness of the height. However the Captain was unaware of that.

The Captain realised they were too low at 245 feet (75m), and the plane dipped as low at 166ft (51m) before the pilots were able to increase altitude.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Engine drama strikes another Qantas A-380

It's impossible not to suspect rogue unionists behind at least some of these troubles

A YEAR to the day that a mid-air explosion forced a Qantas flight carrying 459 passengers to make an emergency landing, the airline suffered another A-380 PR disaster.

A Qantas A-380 flight bound for London was diverted to Dubai after suffering engine trouble.

Pilots on QF31 from Singapore to London were forced to shut down the number four engine about 90 minutes after take-off. It landed safely in Dubai and all 258 passengers onboard are safe.

Actor and comedian Stephen Fry, who flew out of Sydney yesterday after a national live tour of his TV show QI, was among those onboard.

He tweeted his annoyance soon after landing: "Bugger. Forced to land in Dubai. An engine has decided not to play."

Qantas said the plane is not the same A-380 that made an emergency landing in Singapore on November 4 last year.

An explosion tore through that aircraft's second engine shortly after take-off and rained debris on a shopping centre in the downtown area of the Indonesian island of Batam.

A spokeswoman for the airline said the timing of the incident was unfortunate.

“It’s definitely unfortunate that this occurred on the same day as QF32 and after the industrial action,” she said.

There are currently ten A-380s in the Qantas fleet.

Qantas said the jet had not had any other engine problems.

The mid-air drama came as Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was grilled by senators over his handling of the airline's industrial dispute, which has at its heart the safety and maintenance of Qantas planes.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jetstar credit card blues

A recent online dalliance with Jetstar got off to a promising start. Looking to book two adults and two kids on a Sydney-Avalon return flight, it was pleasing to see they had fixed the issue of baggage selection. Previously, it was one-in, all-in for checked baggage. Now, you can deselect baggage from passengers. Second, it looked like we would need to buy the $17 a person "optional value bundle" to ensure we all sat together. A 15-minute call to the helpline (14 minutes waiting, 60 seconds talking) allayed that fear - families automatically get seated together.

Inevitably, it couldn't all go the customer's way, however. Working our way to the final page of the booking (payment), when you're about to hit the process payment key, a line appears stating you'll be charged $60 for the privilege of paying by credit card.

An extra 8 per cent on top of the fares.

I appreciate that customers have the direct-debit option online but it really is taking the mickey when the majority pay this way for all online purchases (and no, I don't want to sign up for a Jetstar credit card).

- Daniel Happell


Friday, October 21, 2011

More trouble midair for Qantas

Some Qantas passengers are angry after a plane with 115 passengers heading to Alice Springs returned to Darwin due to a mid-air malfunction.

Passengers on flight QF1935 who spoke to AAP described a grinding noise and the sound of rushing air about 10 minutes after take-off, before an announcement that there was a problem with the cargo door.

The flight, which left Darwin at 7.25am (CST), turned around and circled the airport for about an hour to burn off enough fuel to land safely.

Chirag Patel from Alice Springs said he never wanted to fly with Qantas again, but had little choice as he was already booked in to fly to Mumbai with the airline on Saturday. "I do not like to fly with Qantas, the safest airline in the world once upon a time," he said at Darwin Airport.

Another man who did not wish to be named described what happened as a "debacle". "I wouldn't mind asking why CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) shut down Tiger (Airways) but Qantas is having incident after incident and they are still flying," he said.

Several Northern Territory politicians who were heading home after state parliament finished sitting for the week were also on board.

Robyn Lambley from the Country Liberal Party said she heard a strange sound soon after take-off. "It sounded like a faulty engine almost, and I looked across and said `this doesn't sound good'," she said. "Soon after that the pilot came on the speaker and said there was a problem with the door to the luggage container."

She said one passenger had what appeared to be a panic attack and paramedics came on board after they landed and give them oxygen. Ms Lambley praised the work of Qantas staff who she said were reassuring during the incident.

The plane was met by fire authorities when it landed as a precaution.

Tourist David Williamson said he was disappointed that something as important as a cargo door fault had apparently slipped through maintenance checks.

Another man seemed more concerned with his thirst as he waited for Qantas to find a replacement plane. He berated Qantas staff because an airport bar had not been opened early while the passengers were waiting. "A man's not a bloody camel," he was overheard telling one staff member.

A Qantas spokeswoman said a hydraulic fault caused the incident. "There is no safety risk whatsoever ... it is a mechanical issue," she said.

Recently Qantas announced a cut in flight numbers because union action was causing a backlog in the maintenance of its fleet.

The airline said the problem with its plane that turned around was unrelated to the industrial action.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Qantas flight forced down on Lord Howe Island after engine failure

A QANTAS plane has made an emergency landing on Lord Howe Island following engine failure, an airline spokeswoman says.

The Qantas spokeswoman said flight QF2260 from Sydney to Lord Howe Island experienced an "oil pressure issue'' with one of its engines. "The engine was shut down in line with standard operating procedure and the aircraft landed at Lord Howe Island without incident a short time later.''

There were 23 passengers on the plane at the time, Qantas said.

Engineers were being flown to Lord Howe Island, in the Tasman Sea, to assess the aircraft, she said. There were no injuries and passengers had disembarked she said.

A spokeswoman for the Lord Howe Island Board said passengers had checked into hotels and resorts across the island.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Mother furious after Qantas loses unaccompanied son in Hobart Airport

QANTAS has fessed up to losing track of an unaccompanied 11-year-old boy and even misplacing the paperwork involving his flight to Hobart.

Fairfax Media says when the boy arrived at Hobart Airport on his own late at night on September 28 he was forced to wander around on his own looking for his mother.

Qantas says the incident happened during a particularly busy night when the arrivals hall of Hobart Airport was in turmoil because storms in Melbourne had caused flight delays, passenger disruption and lost baggage.

The boy, who had been dropped off at Melbourne Airport by his uncle and passed into the care of Qantas cabin crew, told his mother, Leanne Decleva, that he didn't know why he was on his own after landing in Hobart. "Anyone could have come along and just creamed him up in a couple of seconds," said Ms Decleva, a child protection worker.

She marched him back to the Qantas counter to find out what had happened and was told they had no paperwork to sign for his collection and did not know who was authorised to pick him up.

"I've shown my licence as ID and they just (said) take him," Ms Decleva said. "But there could have been a custody battle in train and I may have been prevented from having any contact with him. "Working in child protection, I know all this stuff, because it happens all the time."

She has declined the airline's offer of a $1000 travel voucher and is considering her legal options.

A Sydney-bound Qantas flight has turned back to Bangkok with engine problems

A SYDNEY-bound Qantas flight has been forced to turn back to Bangkok with engine problems after a bang on board the plane, the airline says.

The Boeing 747 turned back one hour into the Bangkok-Sydney Q52 flight about 9.30pm (AEDT) yesterday after there was a bang and the plane vibrated, a Qantas spokesman told AAP. "About one hour after take-off, there was a bang and some vibrations were felt through the aircraft," he said. The pilot turned off one of the four engines as a safety precaution and the plane, carrying 356 passengers, landed safely back at Bangkok airport at 10.47pm (AEDT).

No emergency landing was required and all passengers were being accommodated on other services, the spokesman said.

One passenger reported seeing sparks shooting out of the engine, Macquarie Radio reported. "There was some white sparks shooting out of the engine and then they informed us of what was going on, that the engine had been shut down and we were returning to Bangkok," a passenger known only as David said.

It comes as an estimated 60,000 Qantas passengers have been affected by a series of rolling strikes by engineers and ground crews. The airline last week cancelled 400 domestic flights over the next month, blaming the disruptions on engineers' strikes.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Here we go again

There has been a bit of a lull in these incidents so I was hoping Qantas had got their act together

A QANTAS plane enroute to Perth was forced into an emergency landing in Newman after engine problems today. Passengers reported hearing a loud bang after an engine stalled on the flight from Newman to Perth about five minutes into the journey. The plane was carrying 75 passengers and five crew members.

A Qantas spokesperson said the plane was turned back because of an “adverse engine indicator for the aircraft’s right engine”.

One passenger told Nine News he was sitting at the back of the plane and heard a “bang” noise about five minutes into the flight. “They didn’t tell us [for] ages, they said we’ll turn it back for … an emergency landing,” he said.

Another passenger flying to Perth for a holiday also said she heard a loud bang. “The plane went like dead silent for about three minutes, and we hadn’t been told anything,” she said. “We were just sitting there and then the lights down the middle started going on and off. “We were just left there not knowing what was happening.”

A Perth man on the plane said the plane “dropped” mid-air after the loud noise. He said they eventually got to Perth three hours after returning to Newman.

Passenger Jeff Worthington told Nine News the scariest part of the flight was the landing. “It hit the ground that hard, and then it was just all over the runway,” he said.


Friday, September 30, 2011

More claims Jetstar is exploiting staff

A former cabin attendant with Qantas's budget carrier Jetstar Airlines says flight safety is being endangered by some crew being forced to work extremely long shifts.

Former Jetstar employee Dallas Finn said he quit his job after two months because of concerns about safety and fatigue.

"I told them they had safety issues with the airline and it should be addressed," Mr Finn told ABC TV yesterday.

Based in Darwin, Mr Finn become a Jetstar flight attendant in June but quit two months later. He said he had filed an incident report about fatigue after flying five return international flights in five days, which had affected his sleep "drastically".

"The Ho Chi Minh flight is between a 12 and 13-hour day," he said. "They would actually change the pilots over in Ho Chi Minh but the cabin crew would have to fly back."

Mr Finn said his safety concerns arose after a pre-flight briefing at which the Singapore-based crew were unable to answer the emergency procedure and the medical question.

"It was the first time I've actually been scared of flying because if something went down I didn't actually know if that crew would be able to back me up," he said.

Jetstar said it investigated concerns about the skills of a crew member on a Melbourne-to-Darwin flight on July 17. "It was determined that the crew member satisfied proficiency requirements," the airline said in a statement.

The contract for Jetstar's Singapore-based flight attendants states that crew could work shifts for up to 20 hours but staff could be forced beyond that limit without consultation, the ABC said.

The supplier of cabin crew for Jetstar out of Singapore was Valuair, of which Qantas owned a 49 per cent share through Jetstar Asia.

A Singapore-based Jetstar cabin attendant said they had to accede to management's requests, even if they exceeded the conditions of their work contracts.

"If we complain about fatigue or long hours or bad flight rosters, the management's reply is, 'You signed a legal contract, so you have to do whatever that is'," the attendant told ABC TV.

But Jetstar said the airline did not roster 20-hour shifts. "The longest rostered shift is 15 hours and 20 minutes," it said. The carrier said the average rostered international cabin crew shift was about 10 to 11 hours.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Left without a crutch

As someone with a permanent disability, the treatment I received from Qantas security officers at Brisbane Airport recently was shocking. After passing though security, my crutch was taken from me and no other aid was made available. I was told to lean against a post because security needed to screen the crutch again. I had to stand unaided for a screening of my body, despite the fact I had told two of the officers I had a broken femur and a hip replacement.

- Rosemary Ross


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fast downgrade, slow refund

My loyalty to Qantas has waned in the past few years because of indifferent customer service but the piece de resistance was waiting more than two months for a refund after a Qantas flight downgrade that was made to accommodate its staff on a flight from Sydney to Auckland.

This downgrade was advised only as we drove to the airport but we were assured a refund would be processed quickly. If we can book flights online and have credit cards debited instantly, why does it take so long to receive a refund?

- Mary Maloney


Monday, August 15, 2011

Qantas pilots told not to make up lost time

Who cares about passenger convenience?

PILOTS are being ordered to stop trying to make up time on Qantas flights running significantly late - so the airline can save on fuel costs.

In a snub for passengers, the airline has a strict policy of refusing to allow pilots to catch up if they can't land in the 15-minute window that qualifies as being on time. "If the aircraft is running late and the pilot can't make it there within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time then he or she is not permitted to fly faster and burn more fuel," one pilot said. "It would seem that the underlying assumption is that once a passenger is more than 15 minutes late, they may as well be an hour late."

Traditionally, if a flight is running an hour late a pilot could fly faster to minimise the delay. However, late pilots are allowed to fly faster provided they are capable of landing within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time. That would count as an on-time arrival - although Qantas denies this is the reason for the policy.

Australian International Pilots Association vice-president Captain Richard Woodward confirmed the policy. "Pilots are capable of making up time in the air if needs be, but they obviously need to burn more fuel to achieve that," he said.

"The policy states that if you can't land the aircraft within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time, you're not allowed to try. So even if a pilot can improve the ETA from an hour late to 20 minutes late, they're not permitted to attempt it."

Qantas confirmed fuel - which cost the airline more than $4 billion a year - was a major factor in deciding whether or not to make up time. "Fuel burn increases exponentially when the aircraft goes faster so in trying to make up just a few minutes, planes can burn through thousands of litres of jet fuel," a spokesman said.

"Airlines around the world are already charging passengers fuel surcharges and higher airfares because of high jet fuel prices and burning more and more fuel puts further pressure on airfares."

Under Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics benchmarks, which Qantas and other airlines use to measure their performance, flight arrival is counted as "on time" if the plane arrives at the gate within 15 minutes of the scheduled time.

Qantas said the policy had nothing to do with boosting its on-time running figures and was all about fuel costs.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Multiple bungles by Jetstar see bride miss her wedding

IT IS customary for brides to run late to their weddings but one couple missed theirs entirely yesterday after a series of mishaps on their Jetstar flight.

The couple, who were flying to Bali with some of their guests, were due to leave Melbourne at 6.30pm on Friday, before their nuptials at midday yesterday. The bride, who wished to remain anonymous, was even wearing a white swimsuit in anticipation of the balmy weather, according to a fellow passenger.

The first sign that things were amiss came on Friday afternoon, when the airline texted passengers that flight JQ35 would be delayed.

When passengers seated in the business lounge made inquiries, they were told the pilot was sick and flying in a replacement would result in a two-hour delay.

Vivienne Golabek, 54, who was travelling with her husband, Danny, said: "At 8pm we finally got a call saying that we were boarding. As we were sitting on the flight there was an announcement about the substitute pilot that we were getting from Sydney to say that his luggage was lost and in his luggage was his passport."

Some time after 8.30pm, the passengers were told to disembark, given meal vouchers and told to return at 9.50pm. But when the passengers arrived at the gate, there were no staff. After 20 minutes, some staff arrived and at 10.30pm, four federal police officers were on the scene. "They were probably worried in case someone caused a scene," Mrs Golabek said.

A quiet voice then came over the intercom to say the flight would be cancelled due to road works on the tarmac at Denpasar Airport.

Passengers who lived more than 100 kilometres from the airport were given hotel vouchers, but others, including the Golabeks, had to fend for themselves.

Mrs Golabek, of Melbourne, had no connection to the wedding couple but said the bride was "very, very quiet, very subdued and very emotional. Her partner is also very quiet. "There are a lot of people with young children who would not have got to their hotels before 12.30am. There was a total lack of communication and everyone feels they were lied to and some hope Jetstar goes under."

The flight left Melbourne at 9.30am yesterday. Passengers were offered a $100 Jetstar voucher in a letter which apologised for "unforseen mechanical issues".

A Jetstar spokesman said: "There might have been some confused messages in what was a complicated situation. The captain was sick and the replacement from Sydney had to fly to Melbourne and realised his passport had been misplaced.

"There was a delay getting the passport by which stage there was work going on at the airport. We are sorry for the inconvenience and sympathise with everyone on the flight."


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Another joyous Qantas flight -- or two

I TELL you what makes my blood boil - it's when the engine explodes after take-off.

There you are on the trip of a lifetime to Europe, in business class (thanks to frequent flyer points), although actually securing a business-class seat with points is a heckle all of its own. So having beaten that challenge, it was with a sense of smug satisfaction that I reclined my seat, a gin and tonic in hand, as we took off from Bangkok for the final leg to London.

The explosion that rocked the plane was followed by a deathly silence.

I'm not a nervous flyer, but I became a little worried at that point. The captain announced that we had "engine trouble". (A distinct advantage of business class is you can't actually see the fireball and flames). We then had to fly to a zone to dump all the fuel before landing. This takes an hour. The captain assured us he had done this before on a simulator. He also assured us the emergency services vehicles we would see along the runway were standard procedure. Of course they were.

Once landed, we had to wait a further hour and a half on the runway while Qantas negotiated immigration for a plane full of passengers. But don't expect this to make any difference. The official asked what my intended address was in Thailand, and, as I looked at him blankly, would not allow me in.

The airport was empty save for a straggly queue of weary refugees, all with no address. So, none of us were allowed through.

Eventually, some official waived the condition and we collected our bags and were shipped off to a hotel arriving, exhausted, just before dawn.

No new aeroplane was flown in. Instead we were bumped onto other flights. We were kindly offered a flight to Tokyo. I pointed out that we were actually hoping to go to London.

Eventually, we agreed to go economy so as to arrive in less than three days.

No air miles were refunded. No concessions were made. All dreams of business-class luxury, sleep and gin and tonics receded. Connecting flights were missed. The trip of a lifetime was fast becoming a nightmare.

But not to worry, we had a lovely long holiday before we had to contemplate the flight home.

Except you won't believe what happened on the way home. The plane broke down, in Hong Kong this time. Another trip back and forth through immigration. Another night in a hotel. Another great experience with the "Spirit of Australia".


Friday, July 29, 2011

Will Qantas EVER get ahead of its maintenance requirements?

Qantas flight to Melbourne grounded in Hong Kong after 'safety issues'

QANTAS passengers have been left stranded in Hong Kong after a safety glitch forced the grounding of an international flight. The flight, which originated in London, was due to depart Hong Kong for Melbourne last night when the pilot informed passengers of “safety issues”, a passenger said. The passengers were told to disembark and wait in the airport for more information.

One man claimed Qantas staff said there was no accommodation available. "They told us to grab a blanket and sleep on the floor," he said.

Meanwhile, more than 300 Qantas warehouse workers will walk off the job today in a dispute about job security and wages. Workers in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia plan to stop work for 24 hours, the Herald Sun reported.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Useless !@#$%^^&* airline

Qantas engine failure sends rugby's Springboks back home

A QANTAS aircraft carrying the South African rugby team to Sydney was forced to return to Johannesburg because of an overheating engine. The pilot shut it down after it had experienced an increase in vibration and temperature.

The incident happened about an hour into the flight, with the Boeing 747 landing in Johannesburg two hours after the initial take-off.

"The aircraft has four engines and can safely fly on three engines," a Qantas spokesman said. "There was no issue with safety and media reports that there was an explosion are incorrect."

The Springboks were meant to have landed in Sydney, aboard flight QF64, shortly after 2pm (AEST) today but they are now staying at a hotel in Johannesburg as Qantas decides whether to put them on a new aircraft. "We are currently looking at options to get the aircraft back in the air as soon as possible," the spokesman said.

Springboks captain John Smit described the experience on social networking site Twitter. "Wow, just had to do an emergency landing at OR Tambo," he tweeted. "We lost an engine after take-off but safely landed now!"

The world champion Springboks, who are due to play Australia in their opening match of the Tri Nations in Sydney on July 23, are unlikely to depart for Australia before Saturday, the South African Rugby Union said in a statement.

Qantas is a sponsor of the Australian rugby union team, the Wallabies.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Jetstar plane checks 'under investigation' - Civil Aviation Safety Authority

AUSTRALIA'S aviation regulator said it had launched a review of maintenance at budget airline Jetstar, a Qantas offshoot, in the wake of another low-cost carrier being grounded.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said it was examining databases and conducting checks at Jetstar after a records mix-up resulted in some planes missing routine inspections.

The announcement follows the grounding of fellow budget airline Tiger Airways Australia until at least August 1 due to "serious and imminent" safety risks -- the first such ban of an entire carrier in Australian history.

Jetstar said it took four of its Airbus A320 jets out of service on Thursday for overdue works including "testing of batteries of emergency lights on board the aircraft, sampling of hydraulic fluid and the lubrication of door switches."

"We have robust safety and maintenance procedures in place. This is what helped us to identify some routine maintenance tasks (that needed completion) within specific time limits," a company spokesman told AFP. The planes were serviced overnight and back in operation by Friday. There were "no safety implications." "It should also be noted CASA did not order the grounding of any Jetstar aircraft," the spokesman added.

The CASA said Jetstar had immediately reported the issue and a review had been launched. "We've had a detailed briefing from them on what happened and what they've done since. We certainly don't believe there were any immediate or serious safety issues," said Peter Gibson, a spokesman for the regulator.

"But we are reviewing what Jetstar have done and we will be looking carefully at their maintenance systems, particularly their maintenance control systems, to ensure that they are robust and are operating as we would expect."

Mr Gibson said the missed inspections and procedures were "all lower-level issues" and denied there was cause for concern about safety across the budget flight industry. "I don't think anybody's jumping to that conclusion," he said. "The same safety standards apply whether you're a full-cost carrier or a low-cost carrier, we do the same types of audits, we do the same types of surveillance. "Where airlines seek to lower costs and to deliver cheaper fares the one thing they can't do is cut corners on safety."

Mr Gibson would not be drawn on whether Jetstar was facing penalties over the incident, saying only that CASA would take "any appropriate action if it's required".

Tiger, an Australian offshoot of the Singapore brand of the same name, has vowed to take all necessary steps to return to the skies and says it has a bright future, despite losing $2 million every week it is grounded.

Good ol' reliable Qantas

Absent when you need them

AUSTRALIA'S hope to claim the Microsoft Imagine Cup was literally lost in transit today. Team UCEEG from Canberra was forced to show judges their headset which turns thoughts into words sans headset after Qantas lost it, along with a wheelchair it was supposed to control.

The missing pieces will not be returned to the team until tonight, meaning the students have had to present through the first round using a video demonstration.

“The demonstration didn’t turn out well”, said Paul Du, team leader. “We did the best we could, we’re hoping for the best. “Hopefully the judges were happy with our answers.“

The team’s original headset was customised to suit their needs. Using a new one didn’t work out quite as well. “It stopped working for a while, but after the presentation is started working again,” Quang Du said.

The team still managed to converse with their mentor, Dat Tran, on MSN messenger using the improvised headset and Brain Speller software.

Thankfully the team had recorded a video demonstration to show the Brain Speller in action, and hope this will be enough to get them through to the next round.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jetstar admits to safety oversights

They were doing only half of the required routine maintenance! That could explain a lot

QANTAS'S no-frills subsidiary, Jetstar, has come under the scrutiny of the aviation safety regulator over aircraft maintenance, adding to the sense of crisis in Australian aviation after the grounding of Tiger Airways.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority will check the rigour of Jetstar's maintenance systems and processes, after finding out planes were not fully serviced to schedule. Jetstar hurriedly pulled four Airbus A320s from service on Thursday night to attend to overlooked and overdue maintenance.

Yesterday Jetstar admitted to an "administrative issue" with its aircraft servicing. It had informed the safety regulator of its mistakes. "We have robust safety procedures in place and as part of this identified some routine maintenance tasks that should have been completed within specific time limits," a spokeswoman, Andrea Wait, said. "As soon as the administrative issue was identified it was rectified and none of the tasks were safety significant [sic]. "There was no risk to the safety of the aircraft."

The belated service items included testing emergency light batteries, sampling hydraulic fluid and lubrication of door switches, she said.

Separately, the Herald has been reliably told that there is one Jetstar Airbus on the tarmac in Christchurch that will be tested for volcanic ash contamination after a white powdery substance was found on leading edges of engine compressor fan blades.

On the maintenance front, the Herald has been told Jetstar's computer tracks aircraft components in two distinct ways: components that need servicing by flying hours, and those that need servicing by date intervals. But airline staff only realised late on Thursday afternoon that they had only been looking at the service items by flying hours, and had overlooked those by date intervals. It is not known how long this had gone on.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority will now examine Jetstar's system. "We will look carefully at what they've done and to make sure their systems are robust and operating correctly," a spokesman for the authority, Peter Gibson, said.

The vice-president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, Richard Woodward, said he hoped the lapse was "not a genuine oversight regarding engineering of an aeroplane". "We cannot afford that - the risk is too high," he said.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jetstar bans disabled child's stroller from cabin

They do so much of this sort of thing that one suspects they have a deliberate policy of discouraging the ill and disabled from travelling with them

JETSTAR has come under fire for refusing to allow a disabled two-year-old's stroller to be taken on a flight. Trudi Scott was shocked when she was told that at the gate that her son Theo’s stroller could not be carried on a New Zealand flight as there was no room, despite having explained his disability.

Theo has Down syndrome and suffers from a rare condition that can lead to renal failure.

Mrs Scott said staff promised it would be waiting for them at the gate when they got off their flight in Auckland. However the family was appalled to see a crew member carry a large bag with a musical instrument inside onto the plane and store it underneath one of the back seats.

Things only got worse for the family, with the stroller damaged in transit. On their return flight they were also banned from taking the stroller on board despite the cabin being half-full.

Mrs Scott said the way the airline handled the situation was “terrible”. "It's almost like you're having to justify your son's disability to them," she said.

A Jetstar spokeswoman said the airline has apologised for the incident, has sent them four $50 vouchers and will pay for the stroller’s repair. The airline’s policy is to not allow strollers in the cabin of any A320 planes due to the number of people who arrive with them.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

The "f*** you" airline again

In March, I waited patiently for 62 minutes for Jetstar to answer my phone call. Due to ill health, I wanted to cancel flight tickets. I was advised to obtain a medical certificate and fax itinerary details so a refund could be processed.

Three months and several faxes later, I have not even had an acknowledgment.

I had a wonderful career spanning 40 years with TAA and Qantas. Oh, for the good days of customer service, not faceless airlines with fax addresses on Mars. - Paul Smith


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Man urinates in plane aisle, let off with warning from Jetstar

Want to have someone piss on you? Fly Jetstar, the "F*** you" airline

JETSTAR have been criticised for being too lenient on an alleged drunk passenger who urinated on fellow travellers. The incident occurred six hours into a flight from Auckland to Singapore, when a male flyer is alleged to have relieved himself in the aisle. The spray is said to have soaked a man’s leg and a female passenger’s scarf.

Passengers said the man was seen mixing whiskey in a Burger King cup with a friend before the incident. "Everyone was yelling at him and he slowly became aware that he was being uncouth,” passenger Amos Chapple told “He pulled up ... and wobbled back to the other end of the plane." Mr Chapple said he was sitting next to a pool of urine for “a good five-and-a-half hours” after the incident.

However, the man is said to have only received a warning from Jetstar staff. Mr Chapple called Jetstar “slack” in the way they handled the situation and confronted the man in Singapore. "I told him that he had pissed everywhere and he looked quite shocked," Mr Chapple said.

JetStar told the man received an official warning from the plane's captain, had his alcohol confiscated, and returned to his seat to sleep off the public incident. "We issued our final warning ... if you don't behave after the warning, then it becomes a matter for federal police," Jetstar spokeswoman Jennifer Timm said.

Jetstar was contacting the customers affected by the incident to arrange compensation.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Qantas faces Ansett-style extinction

It was failure by management to take on unrealistic unions that brought Ansett down so it looks like Qantas may have learned from that

QANTAS faces Ansett-style extinction unless drastic changes are made to its international business, boss Alan Joyce says. In a stark warning that the airline would take a ruthless approach to overseas operations, Mr Joyce said Qantas could not succeed using its current model and must better use offshore connections and boost its Asian focus.

"Qantas International creates a product and service from an Australian cost base and sells into a global market against international competitors who operate off a far lower cost base," Mr Joyce said. "It is the same problem that has been faced by many other Australian companies in our globalised world. They too have had to change."

Qantas yesterday flagged a $500 million full-year underlying profit, including a payout from Rolls Royce, worth $95 million in settlement over engine problems last November that grounded its A380 fleet.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said Qantas must remain loyal to its Australian workers as it makes changes to international operations. "Mr Joyce cannot seriously say Qantas proudly calls Australia home at the same time as he speculates about moving the company offshore," Mr Lawrence said. "At the same time, the financial reality he describes to the stock exchange is that of one of the world's most profitable airlines."

Despite enjoying domestic success, the international business arm of Qantas forecasts a $200 million loss.

Mr Joyce said he would unveil plans for changing the company's international operations on August 24. He was committed to growing the number of planes bearing a flying kangaroo that operate to and from Australia. But partnerships with airlines such as British Airways, and forays into Asia, would increase. "We believe that we can leverage joint ventures a lot more than we do today," he said.

Mr Joyce also weighed into the carbon tax debate, signalling new cost pressures would have flow-on effects. He said emissions trading schemes beginning in Europe would result in ticket price increases. "The profitability of these operations is not such that the airlines can digest these costs, so they will be passed on to the consumers," Mr Joyce said. He said protection of the tourism industry was needed under any Australian carbon tax.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Overseas repairer of Qantas planes 'has problems'

A repair station in the Philippines that does major maintenance work for Qantas, among other international airlines, has shown a pattern of stubborn problems, American inspections have found.

The safety experts say the pattern underscores concerns about the airline industry's outsourcing of maintenance to facilities in developing countries.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspections of Lufthansa Technik Philippines in Manila said the facility had repeated difficulties in following US regulations on matters ranging from record-keeping to calibrating tools used to make repairs.

The records, which cover inspections from 2008 through to last month, also cite recurring problems with training workers to FAA standards and unfamiliarity by in-house inspectors at Lufthansa Technik, a subsidiary of Lufthansa Airlines, with US regulations.

Lufthansa Technik's "quality assurance department demonstrated an inability to effectively audit the repair station for compliance with all aspects of (US regulations), specifically, appropriate facilities, tools/equipment, personnel and training requirements", according to an inspection in May.

A 2009 inspection noted that two in-house inspectors were unfamiliar with FAA aircraft maintenance regulations. The inspectors had recently received four hours of training in the regulations but weren't tested for their knowledge afterward, it said.

The same inspection noted that "throughout the repair station numerous personnel were not aware of which airline they are providing maintenance for" and which country's regulations applied.

The reports show problems scattered throughout the facility rather than in one department, which indicates the problems are systemic, said John Goglia, a former National Transportation Safety Board member and an expert on aircraft maintenance. The result, he said, is an erosion of the margin of safety.

"As they expand into Third World countries to take advantage of the labour rates and lower costs these problems keep coming back because you just don't have the people infrastructure," Goglia said.

"How many trained people do you think there are the Philippines, in Malaysia and in Indonesia? They are expanding a big operation with a relatively thin technical workforce."

The Manila facility employs 2,800 aircraft mechanics and other employees. It's certified by the FAA and aviation authorities from 20 nations to perform maintenance work ranging from routine repairs to major overhauls, according to Lufthansa Technik.

The company recently began construction of a new hangar so that Airbus A380s - the world's largest airliner capable of seating up to 853 passengers - can be serviced at the facility.

The records were obtained from the FAA through a Freedom of Information Act request by a labour union, Unite Here, which represents employees of Lufthansa's catering subsidiary in North America, SkyChef. The union and the airline are in contract negotiations.

"None of the mentioned FAA audit findings had significant impact on safety and reliability of aircraft and components," Lufthansa Technik said in a statement.

"Each finding has been treated as an opportunity to enhance the existing system, as it is an industry standard to deal with findings from internal and external audits," the statement said. "Corrective actions have always been implemented and accepted by the FAA."

However, the report on last month's inspection said numerous problems cited in an August 2010 inspection still had not been corrected. "An acceptable corrective plan has been submitted, but due to recent failures, an on-site follow-up inspection ... is required," it said.

Bill Voss, president of the Flight Safety Foundation, an industry-supported group that promotes aviation safety worldwide, said the inspections indicate Lufthansa Technik Philippines has a problem with quality control, but he cautioned against making more general judgments about offshore aircraft repair stations.

"It's a huge leap to suggest this is representative of all foreign repair stations," Voss said. "I'm not sure offshore equals bad."

The FAA said in a statement that it holds foreign repair facilities to the same standards as US facilities. Repair facilities that don't meet those standards can lose their certification. The FAA has certified Lufthansa Technik Philippines for repairs since 2000.

The Transportation Department Office of Inspector General announced in December it has launched an investigation of the FAA's oversight of maintenance performed for US passenger airlines by outside contractors, including oversight of overseas repair stations.

Lufthansa, one of the world's largest airlines, owns 51 per cent of Lufthansa Technik Philippines, while the Philippine MacroAsia Corp owns 49 per cent.

The only US carrier that sends planes to Lufthansa Technik Philippines for major maintenance work is Hawaiian Airlines, which flies to destinations in the Western United States, the Pacific and Asia.

Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Qantas, LAN, Philippine Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Vietnam Airlines, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways and Jet Airways are among some of the other airlines that use the facility for major work.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

That good ol' Jetstar charm again

LES Turner was looking forward to a nice trip when be boarded a Jetstar flight to Singapore. Instead, the 86-year-old man died of a mid-air heart attack in the plane's toilet on the return journey to Darwin.

And a fellow passenger who worked frantically to save him was confronted with an attempt by the budget airline to double-charge her for a new flight when she tried to resume her journey.

Parliament has heard evidence "communications difficulties" were encountered when the nurse tried to raise the alarm with the foreign crew about Mr Turner's plight in the toilets.

But Jetstar maintains it is standard practice to ask if medical staff are on board to assist in emergencies and that the pilot was alerted and an ambulance on placed standby at the airport.

When the Sunday Herald Sun contacted him, Mr Turner's stepson, Terry Stanley, was appalled. "All I knew was that he had passed away in the toilet, and they didn't give any details other than that," Mr Stanley said. "If he was visibly in some sort of distress going into the toilet and the cabin crew were made aware of that, but failed to follow through with it, that just isn't good enough."

When told the passenger who had stepped in to assist had been asked to pay for another ticket after she sought medical assistance in Darwin for a bleeding nose and bloodshot eyes after performing CPR on his stepdad, Mr Stanley said: "It's pretty shabby."

Jetstar apologised over the attempt to double charge the nurse who tried to save Mr Turner's life. "An error was made in regards to her travel arrangements for the following day, which Jetstar sincerely apologises for," an airline spokesman said.

Jetstar also said: "All Jetstar cabin crew are competent in first aid. Cabin crew assisted the nurse in the delivery of oxygen to the passenger under her direction."


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wheel problems force Brisbane-bound Qantas jumbo to return to Singapore

A QANTAS jumbo carrying more than 340 passengers was forced to return to Singapore after its wheels refused to retract early this morning.

An airline spokeswoman confirmed flight QF52, which had been scheduled to land in Brisbane at 6.30am today was forced to return to Changi airport 48 minutes after take-off. She said passengers had been briefed on the mishap aboard the Boeing 747-400 jumbo and were put up at hotels overnight.

No one was injured in the incident and the plane has been checked over and the faulty part replaced, ready to take off at noon local time (2pm Brisbane) today. It was expected to arrive in Brisbane at 9pm with the 344 passengers from its first attempt.

It is the latest in a string of incidents for the airline, with a series of mid air alerts early in the year. In January, engine troubles forced a Qantas flight to land in Bangkok, hours after another plane flying from Adelaide to Melbourne plummeted 8000m during an emergency descent.

That same month, a trans-Pacific flight was forced to divert to Fiji for repairs due to an engine problem while another Qantas flight to Los Angeles had an engine failure as it was preparing to take off at Sydney airport.

Most dramatically, in November, one of the four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines on an Airbus A380 exploded mid-air soon after take-off from Singapore, prompting Qantas to ground its entire A380 fleet.

The day after the A380 accident occurred, a Qantas 747-400 had a mid-air incident, with flames bursting from an engine just after take-off from Singapore.

The airline has also faced threats of strikes by long-haul pilots and aircraft engineers.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fury over Qantas check-in changes

ANGRY Qantas passengers have been caught out by new domestic baggage charges that mean travellers could pay up to $60 a suitcase to check in additional luggage.

Under the change, which began yesterday, passengers must pay between $15 and $60 to check in extra bags as the airline switches from a weight-based penalty system to one based on the number of bags, The Australian reported.

The first bag remains free for all Qantas mainline domestic passengers and some frequent travellers can also get additional luggage through with no extra charge.

But most economy travellers wanting to check in two pieces of luggage must either prepay $15 online for the second bag or fork out $30 at the airport.

Third and subsequent bags cost $60 each and passengers will have to pay a $20 "heavy" fee if the weight is between 23kg and 32kg.

Julia Wylie, 24, a musician from Sydney, said she was disappointed after being charged an extra $30 to check in her guitar, and dumbfounded when Qantas staff told her the onus was on her to find out about the extra fees.

"I can't believe they made me cough up an extra $30 because of my guitar even though my other bag was way under the 23kg weight limit," she said. "I usually fly with Qantas because they don't usually charge me for the guitar, but I won't be anymore."

Qantas said that the baggage changes had been announced last October and were communicated through information posted on, via frequent flyer emails and newsletters and on ticket itineraries.

Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said yesterday's problems raised issues about how the changes were communicated and what sort of latitude people should be given when a new system was introduced.

Baby rats ground Qantas plane

A Qantas plane has been grounded after five baby rats were discovered inside medical equipment on board. The rats were found on the Boeing 767 during a pre-flight safety check at Sydney Airport on Tuesday. They were inside a defibrillator. There were no passengers on board at the time.

A Qantas spokeswoman says the aircraft, including its wiring, has been thoroughly checked and the plane will return to service today. No other evidence of rats was found during the check, including the baby rats' mother.

Scott Connolly from the Transport Workers Union says the discovery is not ususual, despite the company's assertions. "Our members working out there report that they've increasingly reported concerns about hygiene, sanitation and this isn't the first occasion that they've reported rodents on aircraft and around their workspace," Mr Connolly said.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Passengers stuck on north Queensland Qantas flight for more than six hours

QANTAS passengers from Brisbane endured a nightmare six hours stuck on board a flight to Mackay on Monday and ended up in Townsville. What should have been a 1 hour and 35 minute trip turned into a lengthy ordeal after weather prevented the plane from landing twice in Mackay and a technical fault halted a third take-off.

The more than 100 passengers were forced to remain on board the Alliance plane for the entire journey on Monday and were not offered any additional food.

Between boarding at 2pm in Brisbane and disembarking in Townsville at almost 9pm, passengers were given only a muffin in the first hour of the journey and offered water and juice at 8pm.

The flight - QF2516 - was supposed to take off at 2.10pm from Brisbane and land in Gladstone 1 hour and 35 minutes later. However, the flight touched down in Townsville about 5.30pm and then again at 7.20pm after two failed attempts to land. The plane was to make a third attempt to get to Mackay at 8pm but the take off was aborted due to a technical fault.

"At this stage I don't think we'll be going anywhere," the pilot told irate passengers.

A Qantas spokeswoman said low cloud cover over Mackay had prevented the flight from landing.

She said it was an "unusual situation" and said passengers had not been offered any more food because the flight had not been re-catered on either of its two refuelling stops in Townsville.

Angry Qantas passengers were offered accommodation.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Qantas plane diverts to Noumea "because of fog" at Brisbane

Even though Brisbane airport remained open! A weak excuse for an inadequate fuel load, it would seem

HEAVY and persistent fog over Brisbane has forced a Qantas flight from Los Angeles to divert to Noumea as a "fuel conservation measure".

A spokesman said after a long-haul flight it was “not ideal to be circling indefinitely” waiting for the fog to lift. He said the flight would leave Noumea about 9am and arrive into Brisbane at 10.15am.

Bureau of Meteorology Senior Forecaster Brett Harrison said the fog started forming about 3am today, gradually becoming denser. He said the fog should start clearing about 7.30am and would be gone by about 8.30am.

A Brisbane Airport Corporation spokeswoman said the fog had not affected the ability for planes to take off and land. “The fog is down the southern end, so at the moment we’re ok and there have been no diversions due to the fog,” she said. “But we are monitoring it really closely in case it shifts.”

Last week Qantas came under fire for allegedly pressuring pilots to cut costs by taking on less fuel. The strategy was blamed for two diversions of Qantas flights because of low fuel.

Qantas has emphatically denied pressuring pilots to carry less fuel but it has admitted to encouraging pilots to monitor how much fuel they put on board their aircraft. The airline has imposed a series of increases in fuel surcharges this year as a result of soaring world oil prices.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Engine problems force Qantas plane to turn back to Bangkok

A QANTAS jet heading out of Bangkok was forced to turn around following take-off last night after the pilot discovered problems with the engine. A Qantas spokesman confirmed this morning there had been "an issue with the engine" overnight.

The Boeing 747 QF1 flight was heading to London from Bangkok when the pilot discovered a mechanical problem and turned the jet around. The pilot managed to land the plane, which was carrying 308 passengers, safely about 2.30pm local time.

"Shortly after take-off there was an increase in vibration and high temperatures from one of the four engines, so the pilots shut down this engine and as a precaution returned to Bangkok," the spokesman said. "The aircraft can safely fly on three engines and it had a normal landing in Bangkok not long afterwards. "We believe the cause is similar to events that other airlines are experiencing and is subject to an increased monitoring program from the manufacturer Rolls Royce."

Nobody was injured in the incident.

The problem is the second experienced by Qantas in as many weeks, with another flight forced to turn around earlier this month.

The airline also experienced similar problems in January when a Boeing 747 jet plunged 8000m during an emergency descent and hours later a Sydney-bound flight was forced to return to Bangkok because of one of the engines began consuming fuel more quickly then normal.

In January 2008 the airline and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau launched an investigation after QF2 from London lost power from all four of its generators on its descent into Bangkok. The 747 with 344 passengers on board lost electrical power about 15 minutes away from landing. At the time the ATSB said if the power failure occurred further away from an airport there could have been a serious accident.

Dangerous practice - Qantas A380s carrying less fuel

What if the nearest available airport is in the middle of bad weather when fuel runs low? Landing in a storm is the recipe for a crash

QANTAS pilots flying the flagship Airbus A380 super jumbos are being pressured to carry less fuel on long-haul flights in a cost-cutting measure to reduce the airline's soaring fuel bills.

Company insiders have revealed a campaign - which includes charts ranking pilots based on fuel usage - that is increasing the risk of flights being diverted because they could not safely reach their destinations.

Two flights were forced to divert with fuel issues in the past week. A Melbourne-bound A380 was redirected to Adelaide on Tuesday after crew discovered it had burnt through too much fuel.

A flight from London to Singapore was forced to land in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday because it had inadequate spare fuel to circle Singapore while a storm cleared.

The airline yesterday denied the diversions were solely the result of planes not carrying enough fuel.

But documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph reveal that in the past two years the amount of "discretionary fuel" - carried on board flights to deal with emergencies, unforeseen bad weather and airport delays - has been almost halved.

The documents also show flights landing at Singapore and Melbourne - the two destinations to suffer diversions this week - on average landed with the least amount of remaining fuel of any Qantas A380 flights.

A pilot said yesterday the document, which ranks pilots based on how much fuel they take on board, was putting "subtle pressure" on crews. "The airline is trying to save money, knowing that a lot of our pilots will see it as a challenge and compete with each other," he said.

He said the reductions in discretionary fuel - which save the airline about $3000 on each flight - would lead to more delays due to weather or other unforeseen problems.

Adjunct senior lecturer at the UNSW School of Aviation Peter Marosszeky, who has almost 50 years experience in the sector, said that while the fuel policy had no impact on safety, it increased the chance of passengers being inconvenienced.

A Qantas spokesman confirmed the company was looking at ways to reduce fuel costs but denied it had any impact on services. "It is entirely appropriate that, within our carefully managed policies and procedures, pilots are encouraged to closely monitor discretionary fuel uplift," he said.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Amazing! Qantas flight forced to divert to Adelaide after running low on fuel

A MELBOURNE-bound Qantas plane was forced to divert to Adelaide this morning after crew discovered it did not have enough fuel. A Qantas spokesman said the A380 from Singapore made the unexpected pit stop around 5am AEST.

He said the low fuel supply was not the result of a leak. "Engineers have inspected the aircraft on ground this morning in Adelaide and found there were no technical issues," the spokesman said.

"The flight crew found they had burnt through the fuel supplies quicker than expected. "It was not an emergency landing."

The jet carrying 249 passengers was expected to arrive in Melbourne about 7.30am.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Qantas passengers tell of engine fire scare

A second Qantas passenger on QF5 from Sydney says he heard what sounded like an "explosion" before the plane rolled and "suddenly lost altitude".

Craig Scutella, a Sydney-based management executive, said he was relaxing in the premium economy section of the Singapore-bound Boeing 747 on Monday evening when he heard a "large noise". "[It] sounded like an explosion from the right hand side of the plane, the plane rolled a little, there was an [sic] noticeable increase in the air pressure on board, then the plane suddenly lost altitude," Mr Scutella said in an email.

Pierre Lord, who was also on board, said he saw an engine on the right wing ablaze with large flames about an hour and a half from Singapore, while the aircraft was flying over the ocean. Mr Lord said he was sitting at the back of the plane two seats from the window when flames "five or six metres long and about a metre in diameter" shot out of the engine for about two minutes before the fire was put out. "It looked like the back of a rocket, burning white and pink and blue, not little yellow flames," he said.

The captain told passengers, when the plane landed in Singapore, that an engine had failed, Mr Lord said. Mr Scutella said he heard the captain announce that the engine "misfired" and was restarted.

Qantas this morning denied that the engine failed and disputed the extent of the flames, but said an engine had to be shut down. "There was an increase in vibration from one of the four engines, so the pilots shut down this engine as a precaution and flew the plane safely to Singapore," the spokesman said. "The planes can safely fly on three engines and landed without incident around two hours later in Singapore.

"The passenger may have seen sparks and small flames for a short time in the exhaust area of the affected engine but it was definitely not on fire."

Mr Lord said he thought it was "the end" and ran to tell a flight attendant who was already talking to the pilot on the phone. Although the plane was surprisingly calm and no one panicked, he said about 30 people were on their feet looking out of the window "counting the seconds". "I was expecting something to blow any second," he said.

Mr Scutella said the incident lasted about five minutes before "the plane was back to normality".

Qantas said its engineers were looking into what caused the increase in vibration.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

'Unbelievably moronic' Qantas

It seems Qantas just can't get a break. Aussie comedian Corinne Grant is their latest disgruntled passenger, taking to Twitter to vent her frustration at the "moronic" and 'idiotic' airline that left her stranded on the tarmac.

Grant was among other Sydney-bound passengers who found themselves stuck on the tarmac this morning because the plane they had already boarded was deemed unsuitable to fly.

Grant tweeted: "Apparently u don't check the hydraulics for oil leaks until the plane is boarded & about to leave. Have I mentioned how much I hate qantas? "2nd time in 2 wks I've been on a Qantas flight they've discovered at the last minute isn't flight worthy. No wonder staff are striking Fri."

To make matters worse, Grant reported that all passengers were made to sit on the aircraft until they were found other flights. "Unbelievably moronic - they've decided to make us all sit on the aircraft while one by one they find us other flights," she tweeted. "If they'd just let me off the bloody plane I could go to another carrier. But no - we're trapped here & being found planes 1 by 1. Idiotic."

One of her followers is daring enough to suggest that she switch to a Virgin Blue, to which she responds: "I've asked to swap over, but so many companies use Q that it's hard to change their habit. Wish I was flying with anyone else!"

Grant's outburst comes on the back of the announcement by Qantas aircraft engineers that they will strike on Friday over wage discrepancies.

Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) federal secretary Steve Purvinas said concerns about job security had not been allayed by Qantas. "Our wage claim is modest - less than inflation in fact," he said. "What interests us more is job security, and for aircraft engineers that means simply being able to carry out aircraft maintenance in Australia."

But what does Grant think about the proposed strike? "Yes--I support them striking on Friday!!"


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Trainee pilots in the cockpits with Jetstar's domestic flights

JETSTAR passenger services are being flown by trainee pilots with as little as 200 hours experience, according to the pilots' association. The cadets are employed on part-time contracts which guarantee just $57,600 a year - with no pay rise for six years - and require them to pay the airline $10,500 a year for on-the-job training costs. If they wish to resign after less than six years with Jetstar, their contracts require they pay up to $10,000.

Trainees under the program are currently co-piloting Airbus A320s between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Most are unable to legally fly to New Zealand, where the requirement for commercial pilots is 500 hours experience.

Australian and International Pilots Association vice-president Richard Woodward accused Jetstar of trying to make young pilots "financial prisoners of the airline". "This program is putting a person with about the same number of hours it takes to drive a car in the right hand seat of the cockpit," he said. "Jetstar is creating a 'B scale' for pilots because they're part-time employees."

Jetstar denied the claims and said the program provided an "excellent career opportunity. In the past, becoming a pilot has been extremely expensive and has taken many years of flying in general aviation," a spokeswoman said. "[It] makes becoming a pilot more accessible."

Jetstar said the program, launched late last year, would "deliver enhanced safety outcomes as it is based on ensuring pilot competency, with the pilots trained in Jetstar procedures ... from day one."


Monday, May 2, 2011

Qantas AGAIN!

Loud bang shakes mine workers' Qantas FIFO flight

A QANTAS flight carrying about 100 mining workers from Perth has been turned back after a loud bang shook the plane. Flight QF1820 took off from Perth Domestic Airport at about 5.40am (WST) today carrying fly in-fly out mine workers to Newman in Western Australia's Pilbara region.

A mining worker on board said the plane had just begun to level out after take-off when the captain told passengers they had experienced a problem with the left engine and would be returning to Perth.

"Shortly after take-off we did experience a bit of a bang. We heard it and felt it as well, and not long after that we dropped a little bit in altitude," Tim Williams told ABC Radio. "We did notice a little bit of instability in the plane in the flight."

Mr Williams said the Boeing 717's take-off seemed normal. But, he said the subsequent drop in altitude caused concern among passengers and cabin crew. "There was quite an uneasy reaction. Everyone sort of stopped what they were doing, had a look around, thought about it for a second and tried to be calm," Mr Williams said. "Just to watch (the crew) was a bit worrying, to see them fumbling themselves, not knowing what to do, but they were quite calm and handled it well."

He said a member of the cabin crew let passengers know what had happened, but "you could hear she was a bit shaky".

"At first, I didn't realise what had happened, but as we dropped in altitude I knew what was going on," the mining worker said. "I was a bit worried, a bit scared, had a little prayer in my head and that was it. It was out of my hands, there was nothing I could do."

The flight landed safely at Perth Domestic Airport.

Many of the mine workers on board were headed to BHP Billiton's Mt Whaleback mine, the biggest single open-cut iron ore mine in the world.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jetstar: Terrible service

My wife and newborn child recently had to fly Jetstar to get from Melbourne to Singapore. We lined up to check in for over an hour, then when were told that she couldn't board the flight unless she had her itinery for her onwards flight to Colombia. I let them know that this was incorrect because my Dad is a Singapore PR so all they need is an address and to tell them that she is catching a bus onwards, or that she will fly out shortly and they will let her in. They didn't care.

Not wanting to waste time arguing with someone who hadn't been trained correctly I had the idea to purchase a flexi-ticket and get it refunded a few days later. I did this, the girl who did it for us, informed me that I (as in, me personally) could call up in a couple of days and get the refund. So, I purchased the ticket for my wife and son and they boarded the plane.

Two days later I called up, using the number on the tax invoice that the girl behind the counter handed to me (not my wife who wasn't even nearby when I purchased the ticket) and they told me that since I hadn't been listed as a contact on the ticket I wasn't able to get my refund! I let them know that I was the one who purchased the ticket, I used my debit card, the money came out of my account, I was never asked if I wanted to be a contact (honestly shouldn't this be assumed? I mean how dumb are these people?) yet they wouldn't give me my refund.

Then, after much hassle, I got my wife to call them up and list me as a contact. She did, but when I called in to get my refund, they told me that nothing had been noted down and that I STILL couldn't get my money back.

This is possibly the worst customer service I have ever had to deal with. I don't care how cheap they are, that doesn't mean they have to hire utter morons. All I want is my money back, the money that should have even needed to be spent in the first place.

Will NEVER be flying jetstar again. Won't even consider it, wouldn't even do it if they paid me to. I have since filed a formal complaint with the ombudsmen and will take this to court if I need to. Nobody should have to deal with this level of incompetence.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Luggage? Who needs it!

Many Jetstar and Qantas passengers were facing a weekend without fresh clothes after they arrived at their destinations on Friday to find the carriers had left their bags behind.

Bentleigh's Damien Arundel was on one of 18 Jetstar flights to leave Tullamarine without most of their passengers' bags on board.
"We touched down in Hobart and it's freezing cold, I'm wearing shorts and thongs and then Jetstar casually informs us that our luggage isn't there," Mr Arundel said. "It's disgusting really. It totally ruined the first day of our holiday."

Jetstar spokeswoman Andrea Wait blamed a broken baggage belt for the fiasco, which also hit passengers on 17 Qantas domestic and international flights.

The airlines were scrambling to deliver the passengers' luggage to their hotels and homes after placing it on later flights.

Qantas spokesman Luke Enright said "almost all" baggage left behind was put on the next available flight.

But an airport source said staff had endured a "horrendous" weekend. The source said "a computer glitch" left entire flight-loads of passengers without their baggage.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Grounded in Maroochydore

Nothing prepares you for Jetstar

Recently, it was essential for my husband to be in Melbourne the next morning for business, so he booked a Jetstar lunchtime flight from Maroochydore, reasoning that if there was a delay, he could catch either of the next two flights or he would have time to drive to Brisbane and pick one of the many Melbourne flights from there.

He arrived early and was told there was a delay because of a computer failure. He boarded the rescheduled flight for 3pm but after sitting on the tarmac for an hour, passengers were offloaded because staff had overrun their allowable flying time. Not to worry, extra staff were on their way from Brisbane and the new time was 5.15pm.

It got to 5.30pm without any announcements when one passenger accessed Jetstar's website and found the flight had been cancelled. Soon after, an announcement was made: come back tomorrow morning, we are offloading your luggage. My husband had to wait another 20 minutes for his luggage and rushed home to book the last flight from Brisbane.

His extra expenses were $200 for another flight, $200 for an extra night in a hotel to enable him to see the clients he missed, $120 for a taxi at 1am as his pre-arranged car had gone, $100 car parking in Brisbane and petrol.

Told he would get a refund, my husband phoned after a month and was informed he had to wait 15 days. He explained it had been more than that.

The refund finally came through but not the full amount. No mention was made of the Jetstar charter that promises $50 if the airline fails to deliver a service. Glad I stumbled on to it, because it is going to hear from me now.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jetstar bans wheelchair-bound pair from flight

The "f*** you" airline again

BUDGET airline Jetstar has been criticised after two disabled passengers were not allowed to board a flight.

Tanya Black and Dan Buckingham, who are television presenters of New Zealand disability show Atttitude - were told that they were not allowed on the plane without their carers, the Dominion Post reported. This is despite the fact that the pair, who were due to fly from Auckland to Wellington, were accompanied by an able-bodied colleague.

New Zealand Disability Issues Minister Tariana Turia said that Jetstar's treatment of the pair was "unacceptable".

The pair said that they were forced to wait at the aircraft's door and after 20 minutes decided to fly with Air New Zealand instead.

They claim that they were later told they could get on the plane if they did not go to the media. However the pair, fed-up with their treatment by the airline, declined.

Jetstar said it will be apologising to the pair and refunding their air fares. A spokesperson for the airline said that the concern was over how they would get to the toilet.


And Qantas maintenance fails again

Fuel system problem forces Qantas landing of flight QF50 from Auckland

A QANTAS flight has made a priority landing at Sydney Airport after experiencing a fuel system problem. The Boeing 737, flight QF50 from Auckland, landed safely about 7.45am (AEST) today.

"The flight crew on board QF50 from Auckland to Sydney requested a priority landing at Sydney Airport as a result of a fuel system fault," a Qantas spokesman said. All passengers disembarked the aircraft safely, he said. Paramedics had been called to the airport as a precaution but were not required to treat anyone.

The spokesman said the fault was not thought to relate to the aircraft's engines. Engineers will now examine the aircraft to determine the exact cause of the problem.

The Qantas spokesman said a fuel transfer valve was being replaced on the aircraft, which is expected to be back in service by this afternoon.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Jetstar and Qantas both unhelpful

After years of collecting Qantas frequent-flyer points, we finally had enough for our family to fly to Bangkok return. We paid an additional $50 a ticket to book over the phone to ensure we had everything right.

Imagine our horror 10 months later at the Jetstar check-in counter at Sydney Airport when we were told we could not fly because our passports needed six months' validity and the children's passports were eight days short.

I know it's our fault but you'd think they could give you this useful advice over the phone.

On the day of check-in, we received rude treatment from a Qantas staffer who said it was Jetstar's problem, despite the itinerary clearly being titled Qantas and the flights being booked on Qantas frequent-flyer points. With no help from them, we secured two new passports that day, thanks to two wonderful staff at the Sydney passport office, and flew to Bangkok the next day.

All this was aside from the irritation of having to pay for food and inflight entertainment on Jetstar over nine hours and where a blanket costs $8 to hire. In one experience, I have gone from Qantas advocate to critic.

- Stuart Cohen


Friday, April 1, 2011

The "F*** you" airline again

Jetstar bans a mother and her toddlers from flight -- and still no apology direct to her

JETSTAR has been blamed for giving a mother wrong advice that left her stranded with two young children at an airport. The airline reportedly told Ashley Taipari and her infant twin boys that they would not be able to fly from Auckland to the Gold Coast because she needed another adult to accompany one of her sons, the Papakura Courier,reports.

But Ms Taipari claims she had called Jetstar twice before booking the flight three months ago and told she would be able to travel alone with her children. Ms Taipari says she was told to book only one infant seat, so one twin could sit on her lap while the other would be able to sit in a car seat. She was also told that the car seat would be provided for her so she wouldn’t have to bring her own to the airport.

However, Ms Taipari said she was taken aside when she checked in and told she could not fly. Ms Taipari was told she was only eligible for a refund for the child fare, which would take 10 days to process.

Stranded at the airport since Sunday, Ms Taipari was eventually able to transfer her flights and a friend will accompany her on the way to Australia on Saturday.

Jetstar spokesman Gerard Blank today apologised through the media, saying the company places the highest priority on the safety and security of all its passengers.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Toughen up, tired Jetstar pilots told

An amazingly dangerous attitude. Tiredness greatly reduces alertness and can lead to serious error

A SENIOR Jetstar manager told pilots to "toughen up princesses" after complaints about fatigue on the budget airline's Perth to Singapore route. The instruction was contained in an email admonishing the airline's pilots, tabled in a Senate committee hearing today in which Qantas and Jetstar executives were questioned about safety standards. In it, pilots were told: "Aeroplanes don't make money sitting on the tarmac, they need to keep flying".

The January 7 email opened with the warning: "If you are easily offended then delete this email and read no further. Toughen up princesses! You aren't fatigued, you are tired and can't be bothered going to work."

However the author, a Perth-based pilot manager, admitted that overnight flights on the Perth to Singapore route were a "horror shift". The pilot manager acknowledged in the email that when he flew the shift, he operated below his normal standards.

"By trial and error, I have worked out what works for me so I can manage the shift," he said. "I can say I hate the shift and I definitely don't operate to my normal standard. I am tired throughout the shift, feel terrible, but I would not call it fatigued."

He concludes the email by saying he was not speaking as a base pilot, but "as a pilot who hasn't lost touch with reality and who wants to make this Perth base work".

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the surprise tabling of the email, by South Australian independent Senator Nick Xenophon, made it difficult for management to respond properly to the issues raised about its airline subsidiary. He said it was in the airline's interests to hear safety complaints, but those with information should go through the proper channels.

"That document should be sent to the regulator for the regulator to have a look at it," Mr Joyce said. "That's what should be happening with the process. And we are very happy to cooperate with the regulators - we do - to have a look at these issues when they arise."

Jetstar chief executive Bruce Buchanan said there was an incorrect perception the airline pushed its crews to the limit. “Our pilots are working on average, 18 hours flying a week, where you have a compliance maximum of 25 hours a week," he told the Senate's rural affairs and transport committee. “I look at the averages of worked hours across all the bases and I can't see any of them getting close to the limits at the moment."

Senator Xenophon said the email raised serious concerns over safety and the management culture at Jetstar. “Fatigue is a serious issue and can have an impact on the ability for pilots and crews to effectively navigate a plane," he said. "The intimidation in this email is alarming and indicates that there may be a bullying culture among pilots."

But Mr Joyce said he was concerned the email was being taken out of context. "I'm worried about this note that we've got now from a pilot, that this is not a misrepresentation." he said.

Mr Joyce said the Qantas group took a comprehensive approach to fatigue management to ensure pilots were fresh and ready to fly. But he said pilots also had a duty to manage their own levels of tiredness. "It's up to the pilot to identify ... if he's not comfortable and shouldn't be flying. And we rely on that as well as the system," he said.

Jetstar was last year forced to reinstate a whistleblower pilot who was sacked for airing his concerns about falling safety standards. Joe Eakins was fired from the budget airliner in late November after speaking out about a range of cost-cutting measures which he believed compromised safety, including a push towards using foreign-based cabin staff.

He was given his job back and apologised to his employer in an otherwise confidential out-of-court settlement. "I never intended my comments to bring into question the sound and proactive safety culture that exists within Jetstar," Mr Eakins said.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Qantas flight turns back due to smoke

A Perth-bound Qantas flight has returned to Adelaide after smoke entered the cabin from a malfunctioning oven. The Boeing 737 carrying 124 people turned back on Saturday in line with the airline's safety policy, a Qantas spokeswoman said. 'It was just smoke coming from the oven,' she told AFP. 'The crew turned the oven off but we took the plane back to Adelaide.'

The incident comes just days after a cockpit fire caused by an electrical fault forced a Qantas Airbus A330-200 bound for Manila from Sydney to make an unscheduled landing. In that instance, the pilots used an extinguisher to douse the fire and diverted to the nearest airport at Cairns where they landed safely.

Last November the airline temporarily suspended flights of its Airbus A380 superjumbos after an engine on one exploded after taking off from Singapore, damaging the plane.

Then in January a flight bound for New York made an unscheduled stop in Fiji after the Boeing 747 developed a problem with a fuel valve supplying one of its engines.

Soon after, another Boeing 747 suffered mid-air mechanical trouble after taking off from Bangkok and was forced to return to the Thai capital.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Grounded Jetstar flight leaves stranded passengers fuming at Adelaide airport

HUNDREDS of Jetstar passengers were left stranded at Adelaide airport last night after a crew member fell ill. Flight JQ775, scheduled to depart Adelaide to Melbourne at 9.40pm was delayed and then cancelled. The ill crew member was not a pilot.

Many passengers missed international transfers in Melbourne.

Jetstar gave many passengers hotel vouchers and a flight booking for early today, but one passenger said they were very angry. "There must be over 200 people here," he said. "They are all really p...ed off."

A Jetstar spokeswoman said it was rare for a flight to be cancelled by a sick crew member. "It is very unusual," she said. "We have arranged replacement flights for early (Saturday) morning and have overnighted passengers who require accommodation."


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Qantas plane catches fire during flight

And it was nearly an hour before it could land

A QANTAS Airbus flying from the Philippines to Sydney has made a forced landing in Cairns after a fire broke out in the plane's cockpit.

Qantas says the Airbus A330 was forced to land in Cairns yesterday afternoon after an electrical fault caused smoke and small flames to appear near the left-hand windscreen of the cockpit.

The airline praised the pilots for reacting calmly to the fire, saying they showed quick thinking in donning oxygen masks and extinguishing the flames, while diverting the Sydney-bound flight to the nearest airport.

"There were no ill effects or injuries experienced by any of the 147 passengers or 11 crew, and all passengers were accommodated on other domestic services to complete their journey to Sydney," a Qantas spokesman said in a statement.

He said the pilots were being praised for "their calm response to the incident."

A 56-year-old passenger on board the flight described the incident as "scary." "There was a burning smell in the cabin that was very strong, and then the captain came over the loudspeaker and explained an electrical problem meant there was a serious risk of fire," the man told Fairfax media. "Later he explained flames had come back for a second time and they'd had to use a fire extinguisher in the cockpit. "Whenever you hear a pilot talk about a fire on a plane it's truly scary. Clearly the incident could have been catastrophic."

The passenger also praised the captain for his calmness during the situation. "He was very composed over the loudspeaker and when the plane landed he took the time to walk back and talk to the passengers," he said.

The fire broke out at 3.35pm (AEDT) and the plane arrived in Cairns 50 minutes later. Qantas said the incident would be investigated, and that the Australian Transport Safety Bureau had been notified.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Qantas overloaded aircraft

An overloaded Qantas Airbus A330 flying from Sydney to Hong Kong was a risk to flight safety, air investigators have found. A breakdown in the flow of paperwork controlling pallets of freight loaded on to the passenger aircraft led to it being overloaded, exceeding its maximum structural take-off weight by almost a tonne.

As a consequence, pilots configured the plane's flight computers for take-off based on the wrong data about the aircraft's weight and centre of gravity, which "had the potential to affect the safety of flight", investigators with the the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found.

A delay in notifying the error resulted in the aircraft making another 10 flights before maintenance checks for any damage were undertaken. The delay "presented a risk to the ongoing airworthiness of the aircraft", investigators said.

The safety bureau also trawled its records and found 28 freight load control incidents at Qantas in the 2½ years to last August, with the most recent being on July 8 last year. The investigation also uncovered a lapse of quality control at the airline.

Qantas had not reviewed its Sydney freight loading centre for quality assurance in the 22 months before the incident on March 6, 2009. These reviews were supposed to be carried out by senior Qantas management personnel every six months. The last review was conducted in May 2007, investigators found.

"The investigation could not discount that, had those quality assurance reviews been carried out, this occurrence might have been avoided," the bureau's investigators said.

No damage was subsequently found to the aircraft and Qantas has since made changes to the way it loads and checks freight into aircraft, reports incidents and has revamped its staff training, the bureau said.