Qantas looks to mend fences with new planes, customer service blitz

Qantas has unveiled some huge changes to its loyalty programs.

Qantas has unveiled some huge changes to its loyalty programs. Photo: Getty

Qantas is trying to move on from several years of public anger about its service standards with new investments in customer experience.

Unveiled on Thursday, the national carrier said a slew of initiatives was being rolled out including new aircraft, better baggage tracking, expanded free wi-fi access and even better seat cushioning.

Aviation consultant and industry veteran Neil Hansford told The New Daily that Qantas’s new aircraft would deliver a range of benefits to consumers, including eventual improvements in on-time performance because they would excel at longer-distance direct flights rather than stopping in Sydney.

“With a more appropriately sized aircraft on seating it allows you to do more direct services, avoiding hell holes like Sydney Airport when it’s having weather or capacity issues,” he said.

“It’s having more Brisbane-Melbourne and Brisbane-Adelaide flights … or a greater opportunity to go Sydney-Hobart rather than Sydney-Melbourne, Melbourne-Hobart.”

Hansford said Qantas was moving to repair bridges with the Australian flying public after a bruising few years navigating a series of regulatory and public relations hurdles.

Qantas boss Vanessa Hudson said investments in new aircraft were underpinning the improvements, with flyers set to see things like more baggage space on newer A220s.

Eight new Airbus A321XLR’s have also been ordered, which are bigger than the Boeing 737.

“We’re investing heavily in new aircraft that are a step-change from the technology they replace,” Hudson said on Thursday.

“They have more comfortable cabins and can fly further, opening up a lot of new routes domestically and overseas.”

It came as the airline reported a 13 per cent dip in its half-yearly profits to $1.25 billion, owing to a fall in airfares from highs last year.

Hudson told investors that the focus on customer service was about “restoring pride and confidence” in the national carrier.

Customer service blitz

Qantas says its new planes will boast a more spacious cabin with larger windows, while there will be about 20 per cent more overhead locker space for carry-on baggage too.

The seats, it says, will be more comfortable thanks to extra padding and there will be a personal device holder allowing flyers to charge their phones using USB A and USB C.

Elsewhere, Qantas said on Thursday that it has updated its mobile app to enable baggage tracking across a flyer’s journey, and will soon roll-out free WiFi on all overseas flights.

The WiFi, already available on domestic routes, will be available from the end of 2024.

The other piece of good news for travellers is that airfares have been coming off the boiler lately, with Qantas saying on Thursday that the addition of more flight capacity and a drop in global oil prices has delivered a 10 per cent decline in average fares since December 2022.

Hansford predicted that airfare relief will persist in 2024 with prices unlikely to spike again now that the aviation industry is operating at closer to capacity.

He said flyers can save even more money by avoiding peak times such as Monday morning where possible and instead opt to travel on Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Thursday.

Qantas also gave an update on Thursday about its heavily criticised COVID credits scheme, saying it still owes flyers $468 million in refunds.

That’s down from a peak of $2 billion, with the airline trialling a new deal with banks that is seeing flights refunded even in cases where credit card details used to buy the flight during the pandemic have expired.

The airline says customers that have outstanding credits which have not yet contacted Qantas could be refunded into their updated accounts, which they will be notified about through email.

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