Friday, February 25, 2011

The "f*** you" airline again

Slugging nurse with new fare wasn't great, Jetstar admits

Jetstar's boss, Bruce Buchanan, has conceded that "we were not on our best form" when it tried to charge a nurse for an additional fare after she had attempted to save the life of a fellow passenger.

The mid-air incident on the flight from Singapore to Adelaide on November 6 was one of the matters put to Mr Buchanan and Qantas’s chief executive, Alan Joyce, in Canberra today when they fronted a Senate inquiry into aviation safety and pilot training.

Passengers on JQ62 noticed that an elderly man had spent an "inordinate amount of time" in the toilet, South Australian senator Nick Xenophon told the inquiry today. But one of the passengers, who was a nurse, had difficulty making a flight attendant aware of the the severity of the situation. When the toilet door was finally opened, the 86-year-old man was found slumped over after suffering a heart attack.

Senator Xenophon said the flight attendant did not know how to perform CPR so the nurse had worked to revive the fellow passenger. The flight was diverted to Darwin but he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

The nurse had to stay overnight at Royal Darwin Hospital because the capillaries in her face broke because of her efforts to try to save the passenger. But Senator Xenophon said the nurse was not happy when Jetstar later tried to slug her for an additional fare.

Mr Buchanan said all of Jetstar’s cabin crew were put through CPR training and had refresher courses every two years. But he said it was standard practice for crews to ask whether any medically trained passengers were onboard aircraft when medical emergencies arose because doctors and nurses had "better capability" to handle such situations given their level of experience.

Referring to the incident on JQ62, Mr Buchanan told the inquiry: "I think we were not on our best form the next day when she was disrupted out of Darwin."

Mr Joyce also told the inquiry that safety was the company’s top priority and he rejected "the scaremongering and misinformation that has been put about" regarding practices at the airline. Qantas has about 50 people dedicated to safety while Jetstar has about 30.

Mr Joyce dismissed suggestions today from a senator that standards had been diminished due to cost cutting, and said there was no difference in standards and performance between Jetstar and Qantas.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Qantas plane gets the wobbles during takeoff

THE take-off of a Qantas A330 passenger plane has been aborted in Perth when the crew felt a sideways movement of the aircraft, the airline has said.

Sydney-bound Flight 566, with 180 passengers aboard, was racing down the runway at the domestic airport around 3.15pm today when the "rejected take-off" occurred, a Qantas spokesman said. "At about 140km/h, which is still well below take-off speed, the flight crew just detected a slight lateral movement in the aircraft which they weren't expecting," he said. "They did what we call a rejected take-off, so they basically hit the brakes and stopped the aircraft."

That caused the plane's brakes to heat up and, in line with procedure, fire appliances were called to help cool the brakes before the aircraft could return to the terminal.

The plane was back at the terminal at 4.20pm and passengers were looked after while it was determined what caused the problem and how to rectify it, the spokesman said. "There were no safety issues, the crew responded as would be expected."

It was hoped to get the flight away later on Wednesday, the spokesman said.

It is the second Qantas flight to be abandoned from Perth this week after a Melbourne-bound plane was forced to land back at Perth shortly after take-off on Monday due to an electrical fault.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It never stops: Perth to Melbourne flight delayed after electrical problems

A QANTAS flight from WA to Melbourne has been forced to return to Perth due to 'serious electrical problems'. The Qantas 767 aircraft, flight QF476 to Melbourne, circled Perth for 30 minutes after a delayed takeoff caused by a generator fault in one engine, passengers were told.

The captain cleared the plane for departure but further problems are believed to have occurred during take-off and the decision was made to turn the aircraft back. It sat on the tarmac for a further 20 minutes awaiting a dock.

A spokesman for the airline said: "A flight from Perth to Melbourne was turned back as a precaution following a minor electrical issue. All passengers have been accommodated on later flights."

A passengers said it appeared to be an intention for the Qantas engineers to check the plane at dock but the captain told them that the problems were more serious than first thought and that the plane "wasn't going anywhere".

One passenger said, "We were told in the air there was an electrical problem. Then when we landed back in Perth they were 'serious electrical problems'." The passengers were told to disembark and await further notice.

It has caused disruption for scores of passengers en route to Sydney, the Gold Coast and Hobart.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Qantas 'case' studies

As a frequent flyer to Hong Kong, I have found the recent service on Qantas flights unacceptable.

Case 1: During the meal service I was asked if I would prefer chicken or fish. "Chicken please." "Sorry sir, we have run out of chicken." "Then I suppose I will have to have the fish." "Sorry sir, no fish!" I was then offered a cup of noodles.

Case 2: A passenger next to me mentioned to the cabin attendant that his TV monitor was not working properly. The attendant suggested he lean over and watch mine.

Case 3: My tray table would not sit open correctly. The cabin attendant suggested I place the meal on my lap. I spent the next hour removing Moroccan lamb from my attire.

- Chris Heenan


New problem hits Qantas A380 engine

A clear case of negligent maintenance

Air-safety inspectors are investigating oil problems with an engine on a Qantas A380 superjumbo after pilots decided to reduce its thrust to idle about two hours out of London.

The pilots of the A380 noticed a gradual decrease in the amount of oil the number-four engine was using while flying over India's capital, New Delhi, on Tuesday during a service from Singapore.

The crew decided as a precaution to reduce the engine's thrust to idle about two hours' flying time away from Heathrow airport.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said an engineering inspection later found that an external oil line on the engine had not been correctly refitted after it had been removed for testing.

The Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine was one of many inspected in the weeks after a Qantas A380 suffered a midair engine explosion shortly after take-off from Singapore late last year.

Qantas said today that the latest problem "is not related in any way" to the QF32 incident on November 4, which forced the airline to ground its superjumbo fleet for weeks. It stressed that the engine was placed on idle thrust and was not shut down at any stage during the flight.

The A380 involved in the latest incident – the third that Qantas took delivery of – remains in service. The ATSB is continuing its investigation.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jetstar: Passenger safety 'at risk due to cost cutting'

Airline safety is being eroded as operators cut crew training time and other costs, a senior pilot trainer has warned. Geoff Klouth, an A320 training captain with budget carrier Jetstar Airways, said a drop in training standards and checks had prompted him to make a submission to a Senate inquiry into airline safety.

"Safety margins that were a normal part of the aviation industries and which contributed to Australia's safety record have been and are being eroded to a point where airlines' safety can no longer be considered as a given," Mr Klouth told the inquiry in Canberra.

He said insufficient pilot and cabin crew training, poor rostering leading to increased fatigue and an overall reduction in resources were cause for concern. Airlines had cut the training time for cabin crew and were relying more on cadet pilots to drive down their operating costs, Mr Klouth said.

Mr Klouth said shortening the training time for cabin crew had implications for the operation of the aircraft and passenger safety. "If you are crammed with six weeks' worth of knowledge in three weeks, it is inevitable that you are not going to be able to recall all the important pieces of information that you need to," he said.

Mr Klouth recommended to the committee that training for a commercial pilot's licence be a minimum of 1500 hours and all airlines should release their draft or final reports on safety incidents to the ATSB.

He has previosly raised concerns about some flight attendants completing their training without having operated on the A321 aircraft, leaving them unsure how to "arm" the doors. "They have been unable to 'arm' doors. Arming the doors is necessary to allow for the automatic deployment of the emergency escape slide if the aircraft has to be evacuated," Mr Klouth said.

The increasing number of flight attendants who are based in Singapore and Bangkok yet operate domestically on international flights is also an issue of concern. “The foreign based crew all speak English but the ability to be understood in an emergency is an aspect of their training that is not effectively assessed.”

He said that airlines are under increasing pressure airlines to cut costs. “The CEO of Jetstar requires a 10 per cent reduction in the airline costs per year. In a safety sensitive industry this will result in a reduction of the safety margins that have contributed to Australia’s aviation safety record."


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Even Jetstar is a better airline than Qantas

IT'S SHOCKING really … but who was surprised that Qantas, having promised to get stranded Australians out of Egypt, left them waiting another 13 hours in the hell of Cairo airport due to "technical problems".

I don't doubt the endless mechanical failures and depressurisation incidents we hear every other day are overblown. No doubt they have always occurred routinely: it's just that passengers armed with Facebook, Twitter and video cameras didn't act as vigilante reporters in days gone by. Still, the dismal diary of "incidents" reported at Qantas is surely filling to the point where the brand - once the best in Australia - is a shadow of its former self.

Moreover, beyond such intangibles as brand decay, there are verifiable facts surrounding Qantas Airways - the ASX-listed holding company that covers all the subsidiaries - which are simply inescapable.

In the case of Qantas International, the company is stuck with archaically old planes and the attempts to refresh the fleet have been delayed, significantly with the dramatic problems in the A380s. The "super jumbos" were shaping up as a potential favourite among travellers until one of them had to make an emergency landing in Asia before Christmas.

The other plain truth about Qantas Airways is that strategically it is being sandwiched - rival global carriers such as Etihad are coming down hard, while its offshoot, Jetstar, is a better business on almost every measure and is moving upmarket.

No surprise then to hear that Alan Joyce, the former Ryanair and Jetstar executive who is head of Qantas Airways, is to run a strategic review of the airline. There is talk of joint ventures, of a renewed thrust into China and other initiatives.

Yet while Joyce hints at these changes, he also comes out with very negative comments about Qantas International - last week he said the division was falling "significantly short of expectations".

Meanwhile, Qantas stock is steady … in fact in recent days, despite a new fuel surcharge, the share price has started to lift. Why? Well, virtually every stockbroker in the market reckons Qantas Airways is a buy - the stock closed for the weekend at $2.41 yet the 12-month price targets from brokers range between $3 and $3.70.

The optimistic forecasts follow suggestions from analysts that Jetstar is now so strong - especially in Asia - it can deal with the drag imposed by Qantas International.

But you'd have to think that Joyce, himself a product of the low-budget Jetstar (and earlier of the ultra low-budget Ryanair), would have to consider closing down Qantas International as a potential way out of the conundrum he faces as boss of the whole show.

Joyce is highly regarded by many in the industry - crucially he has shown the ability to respond in a decisive manner to every issue thrown at him, including the unprecedented spectacle of European airports closed en masse due to clouds of Icelandic volcanic ash.

But would he move to close Qantas International, leaving us with a national airline called Jetstar? … I wouldn't rule it out; Jetstar now has the potential to be a better brand than Qantas.


Friday, February 4, 2011

What a hopeless mob! Qantas engine fault leaves Aussies stranded in Cairo

AUSTRALIANS trying to escape Egypt's violence have been left stranded due to an engine fault in a Qantas 747.

The free mercy flight, organised by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Qantas, was due to arrive at Frankfurt Airport, Germany, at 5.30am AEDT carrying Australian citizens. But at midnight the plane was still grounded at Frankfurt, unable to leave for Cairo.

About 50 Australians were waiting at Cairo Airport to be airlifted out of the strife-torn country last night.

It was the second free rescue flight deployed by the Australian Government. The first flight, carrying more than 190 people, landed in Frankfurt early today.

A spokesman last night confirmed the Qantas flight had not left Frankfurt Airport for Cairo due to engine problems and was being fixed by engineers. He said he was unable to say when the stranded Australians would be rescued but that they were committed to getting all citizens out of Egypt.

More than 700 Australians have registered with DFAT saying they needed to be evacuated from the troubled country.