Don’t bother flying Qantas to London this winter
Subscriber email – 12 June
Going to London in the next month or so? Flying business class? Well, good luck.
There’s no capacity and frequent flyer points are all but useless –
even to Platinum status Frequent Flyers with Qantas. It’s a sellers
market on the 14 flights week through Singapore and seven through
Bangkok. For business travellers, it’s bad luck. Even full economy is
Why the shortage? Those new business class sleepers, which take up a lot of room.
In fact there’s been a 40% reduction in capacity in business because of
the airbeds, according to a business class travelling acquaintance of
Crikey’s who has tried booking a seat next month. Qantas staff revealed
the capacity reduction during the booking.
It’s perhaps why so many normal business-class flyers are travelling on
other airlines and route hopping their way to Europe. Qantas doesn’t
need to do any sort of discounting up the pointy end of the plane or in
Load factors and yields are climbing, giving Qantas a boomer of a
profit for the year to June. As senior staff were told earlier this
Oh, it’s a similar situation on the Trans-Pacific route to the US and
the sleeper class seats aren’t fully deployed there. Quite amazing what
a duopoly and an innovation designed to help passenger comfort can
really do to the bottom line.
Qantas’s frequent flyer fibs
I just returned from a trip to Frankfurt with Qantas. I had
originally tried to book a frequent flyer ticket but I couldn’t; all
gone, barely any seats left for paying customers, I was told.
Well, there were certainly empty seats on the way over and, on the way
back, the plane was less than two thirds full. Not impressed.
Empty planes heading for Europe
It is really interesting hear about the load on Qantas flights to
Europe, as I had the exact opposite experience last week flying Thai
Airways from Perth via Bangkok to Germany. On the Bangkok-Europe leg
our massive 747-400 had a grand total of 40 or so passengers, without a
single soul in either Business or First class. Most were given several
rows to themselves to stretch out and being a top-level frequent flyer
I had my choice of the seats upstairs.
I haven’t seen a plane so empty since the peak of SARS, and I
wonder if the huge disparity can only be linked to the lay flat beds in
business class. Given most frequent travellers I know actively avoid
Qantas on the kangaroo route for the better treatment given by airlines
like Singapore, has the flying kangaroo really improved that much in
Second class treatment
I’m flying to London on 29th of June. I’m a Qantas gold member, and
have used frequent flier points for three business class return tickets
(got tickets for Wimbledon final, just thought I’d throw that
in). The only way Qantas could get us there and back was to pass
us off to British Airways, who have routed us through Singapore on the
way over and a one night stop in Tokyo on the way back.
Interestingly they have advised us the seats are the older style (not
the newer beds) however we still have to surrender the same amount of
points. Also, there were no business seats available between Heathrow
and Tokyo so we have had to travel that leg economy. Yet for some
reason, they still charge business points for that sector.
I have flown Qantas all over the world in business class (and economy)
for over thirty years and like many other travellers have noticed the
decline in both Qantas’s onboard service levels and the routes they
fly. I discovered to my amazement two months ago that when I booked a
Qantas flight to San Francisco, I had to go via LA, then pay for a
flight from LA to San Francisco. No frequent flier seats available for
that Qantas flight either, so I flew United, directly from Sydney, and
saved about $600.00 on the fair. United, like Qantas and British
airways is now just another run of the mill airline. Long gone is the
“premium service” we used to expect from these airlines.
Towards the end of last year I flew to a conference in Helsinki.
Travelled Qantas business to Bangkok, then connected, for my first time
with a Finnair business flight to Helsinki. The difference in service,
attitude, friendliness, quality of wine and food were so far superior
to the previously mentioned carriers, (like Qantas was in the early
80’s) that in future when I travel to Europe I’ll be going via a
Finnair flight, then connect to UK. Four business colleagues who
flew to Helsinki on the same flights as me to attend the same
conference all commented what a superb airline, and how it stood out
from anything they’d flown in recent times.
How to fix the Airline Duopoly
I commiserate with the many subscribers who complain of poor service
and gouging by the Australian airline oligopoly. There is only
one way to improve service, lower prices and make the airlines
responsive to the consumer, and that is to increase competition.
Studies in the US have shown that on air routes where only two carriers
operate, airfares are on average 30% higher than routes with three or
more carriers. Studies of competitive markets in the US have
shown that a market only exhibits the traits of perfect competition
when there are six or more competitors. So six competitors is
incrementally better than five, which is better than four. etc.
The fact that Qantas earns one third of its profit from the Sydney – Los Angeles route is proof of this principle.
Just to put this into perspective, Qantas operates over 5,000 flights
per week and makes one third of its profit from approximately 30
flights to LA each week. Its only competitor is the bankrupt
United, which is unlikely to start any price competition while still
under bankruptcy administration.
What the air travel market needs is more competition by opening
international air routes to all competitors. This will
dramatically reduce prices on all international routes, particularly
those with only two competitors. And the more competitors attracted,
the closer to perfect competition the market gets.
If the minister for transport, John Anderson, really wanted to take on
the airline oligopoly in Australia he would fight to open up our
domestic skies to all entrants, foreign and local.
Additional fuel taxes and credit card fees would be the first charges
eliminated as the airlines begin an inevitable price war. The public
will benefit as travel costs decline. The only casualty will be Qantas’
monopolistic profits which will eventually decline to levels more in
line with a competitive market place.
The consumer will be the ultimate winner, and the reasoning behind this
is the same used for the proposed Free Trade Agreement with the U.S.
That is, lower airfares will lower business input costs for all
companies which use air travel, and competition ensures the majority of
these savings are passed on to consumers.
I urge those who want to vent their airline horror stories to send them
to the transport minister John Anderson. Let him know what you think of
the airline duopoly, and tell him only more competition will fix it.
Ask him what he’s going to do about it, and if anyone gets a meaningful
response, please share it with Crikey readers.
To e-mail the Federal Minister for Transport send e-mails to: [email protected]