Qantas results show a bounce back, but Rex soars with the best performance

Qantas says it will release an overhauled version of its smartphone app towards the end of the year.

Qantas says it will release an overhauled version of its smartphone app towards the end of the year. Photo: TND

Grounded flights. Stranded families. Luggage vanishing in the air.

It has been an abysmal year for Qantas – now considered the nation’s ‘shonkiest’ airline – and an even worse one for disappointed customers.

So, it may come as a surprise that the latest figures indicate the flying kangaroo is bouncing back.

Qantas is not performing as well as one of the more budget airlines, however, and it’s possible storm clouds lie ahead in the lead-up to the Christmas holidays.

Numbers game

New data shows that 69 per cent of Qantas and QantasLink flights arrived on time in September, overtaking Virgin and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (which operates out of Perth).

BITRE data released last week by the Department of Transport showed on-time performance across all major airlines averaged 68.3 per cent for on-time arrivals and 67.7 per cent for on-time departures.

Rex was the top-performing airline in September. The regional carrier scored 73.3 per cent for timely arrivals, and departures on time were even higher at 75.1 per cent.

Jetstar had the worst on-time performance in September. Only 57 per cent of it flights departed on time, with less than 40 per cent landing on time.

The boxing kangaroo

The national carrier has responded to the stinging criticism by consumer advocacy group Choice, which awarded the airline first place in the annual Shonky Awards for worst products and services.

Choice CEO, Alan Kirkland, said the airline appeared to “have gone deliberately out of its way to win a Shonky”.

“Qantas might call itself the Spirit of Australia, but we think Spirit of Disappointment is more appropriate,” Mr Kirkland said.

But Qantas has accused Choice of using out-of-date data.

“We had several months of poor performance earlier in the year, but it’s improved significantly since August and we’re back to our pre-COVID level of service,” a Qantas spokesperson said.

“No one is disputing the fact we had issues earlier this year, and we apologised for that, but it’s disappointing that Choice failed to acknowledge the impact that COVID and border closures have had on the entire aviation industry.”

Christmas holidays

As airlines brace for an influx of domestic and international travellers this holiday period, experts aren’t expecting the havoc seen earlier in the year.

“The main reason it was such a mess earlier in the year was omicron,” Professor Rico Merkert, chair in transport and supply chain management at the University of Sydney, told TND.

“Staff were sick and couldn’t work, which led to delays and cancellations … the airlines will be better prepared this time … there shouldn’t be any surprises.”

Professor Merkert said although supply chain issues could still result in delays or cancellations, these shouldn’t be widespread.

Managing Director ANZ at Intrepid Travel, Brett Mitchell, also expects there will be fewer delays.

“Clearly, holidays are always a tricky time to travel, so if you can avoid travelling at that time, maybe you should,” he told TND.

“But I do think this holiday season will be better than the last one – I expect it will be a vast improvement as far as delays.”

Mr Mitchell advises travellers to plan ahead and to “get in the right frame of mind” before flying.

“There’s always hiccups but plan ahead, track your flights, get travel insurance … and be patient,” he said.

Brace yourselves

In a worrying development that could scuttle holidaymakers plans, aviation firefighters have voted to strike.

On Thursday, members of the aviation branch of the United Firefighters Union (UFU) voted 93 per cent in favour of striking.

The union said they need more firefighters to protect travellers.

“This is a ticking time bomb,” a union spokesperson told TND.

“Every day we’re putting lives at risk without sufficient resources,” he said.

Airservices Australia told TND that there is no shortage of firefighters and said the union’s claims are “misleading” and “designed to justify unnecessary industrial action to support an excessive wage claim” – of 15.5 per cent.

The union will meet next week to decide on the timing of the strike. In accordance with the requirements of the Fair Work Commission, it must give Airservices and the public seven days’ notice of any strike action.

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