As one frequent flyer puts it, “for cabin service, Qantas comes pretty close to the bottom of my list”.

A frequent flyer writes:

A depressing, but regular, feature on Crikey in the recent past has been the whinging and whining articles by Qantas cabin crew about how badly they are done by and what a terrible employer they work for.

This article goes someway towards putting the behaviour of this lot into perspective.

On Christmas Eve a Qantas A330 Airbus due to depart from Sydney for Perth was delayed because the cabin crew was one flight attendant short. The reason was that the flight attendant had rung in sick at the last minute.

This sudden sickness by cabin crew is known as a “roster adjustment sick day”. In other words, if a flight attendant does not like a roster day he or she simply calls in sick at the last minute. The endemic level of this rort run by Qantas cabin crew is highlighted by the fact that Qantas was not able to find one healthy flight attendant replacement on reserve in Sydney who was able to fill the roster.

A330 Airbus’s have 10 cabin crew so one might well ask why one short would hold up the entire flight. The answer is that the aircraft was fully booked and Qantas flight attendants will not crew a full aircraft without a full crew. The flight attendants’ union does, however, have discretion and could have allowed the flight to depart with 9 rather than 10 flight attendants.

Being Christmas Eve and all, it might have been expected that in the Christmas spirit the flight attendants’ union may have had the decency to allow the passengers to spend their planned evening and Christmas day with their families and friends in Perth. It was after all the rostered attendants who were all too sick spending an un-rostered Christmas with their families that had caused the problem.

It was not to be. The union said no. To satisfy the flight attendants’ union, 20 passengers were kicked off the flight and it eventually departed with vacant seats in both business and economy.

This incident brings to mind the scam run by the Ansett domestic flight attendants before that airline went belly up.

Having leased Boeing 747s for its new international route, Ansett ran one or two on the Sydney to Perth route prior to going into service on the international routes. Cabin crew had been specially trained for the 747s however the domestic flight attendants’ union refused to allow them onto the domestic run without using domestic flight attendants.

Ansett eventually capitulated to the blackmail and each flight was crewed with its trained international flight attendants while a full 747 cabin crew of untrained domestic flight attendants sat up in first class and passengered both ways; attracting full pay and allowances.

The truth of the matter is if Qantas were to undertake professional surveys of their passengers it would quickly learn that overwhelmingly, its cabin crew are viewed as rude, unhelpful and lazy.

Frankly, for my money, the sooner Geoff Dixon finds a way of getting rid of those flight attendants who apparently hate their job, hate their boss and hate their passengers, the better.

Meanwhile, another frequent flyer adds to these comments on Qantas:

As a constant international traveler, utilizing both the Star Alliance and One World networks, I fly on most of the major airlines sooner or later. For cabin service, Qantas comes pretty close to the bottom of my list. For all its carefully cultivated image as the nation’s flag carrier, it’s an airline totally lacking in style. Its meals, at least in economy, are awful. The cabin crew often seem more interested in nattering among themselves than in being attentive to passengers. Increasingly it’s behaving like the near-monopoly it is within Australia. It is treating its frequent flyers with contempt, having just devalued their hard-won points. I fly Qantas only when I have no other choice, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment.

I have a vivid memory of being in a Qantas flight about to depart Singapore, when passengers in window seats near me were being rained on by condensation seeping through the air-conditioning ducts. Two complained to a cabin attendant. One was brusquely given a blanket to put on her sopping seat as a solution to her problem. The other was berated by the attendant, on the grounds that if Qantas waited for the ducts to dry themselves out, it would delay departure, and was this passenger so inconsiderate as to want to inconvenience everyone else by holding up the plane?

Let’s be fair. On one or two occasions Qantas ground staff have gone out of their way to rearrange my travel when bad weather messed up flight schedules in Europe, giving me some much appreciated free upgrades in the process. That’s the kind of thing travelers remember, and which is repaid in spades in customer loyalty. Unfortunately, such courtesy on the ground doesn’t seem to be reflected in the air.

Since Qantas don’t seem to be much interested in customer feedback, perhaps Crikey might encourage the establishment of a complaint website, along the lines of www.untied.com, where customers of United Airlines are able to document their unpleasant experiences. It seems to have had some effect on the perpetually bankrupt carrier, who in my experience has finally begun to lift their game a little.

R.E.

In addition to these comments, the following letter was sent to The Australian Financial Review letter section and to Crikey:

The bleating by bloated Qantas General Manager, John Borghetti, (letters AFR), are becoming tiresome and repetitive. The latest batch of awards it congratulates itself on receiving – from Luxury Travel Magazine – are as meaningless as Virgin Blue’s award from OAG – Official Airline Guides. Only awards from Skytrax or Business Traveller Magazine are actually voted by the shiny bums on the seats, not BOUGHT by the Airlines advertising.

QF has slipped to PR or UA, NW standards. Even TG and MH are now well in front. Singapore, BA, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Gulf Air leave it for dead. Its P class, denoting Premium, (ostentatious to the end at QF), – really a poor mans C Class, does not now come up to Hawaiian Airlines Business Class standards.

Is it any wonder that most seasoned business travellers now fly to the US via the Island State of Singapore with SQ, – in all three classes. Their customer service, ‘can do’ attitude, rest room cleanliness on board – (QF T/dollies don’t clean), airport lounges, FF scheme, quality of F& B, amenities, seat/bed comfort, library, audio and video systems, are all World class and light years ahead of what Geoff Dixon and Neil Perry would throw our way.

SQ must be given full access to the US market ex Australia – and fast.

Zac C. Zussino

However, asthis New Year’s day travellerpoints out, it’s not all bad at Qantas:

As someone that travels a bit, I’ve experienced everything from good to ordinary service from Qantas staff, but credit where credit’s due to the staff that looked after the CityFlyer flight I was on to Sydney on New Year’s day.

The guy looking after check in was genuinely friendly and conversational, even wished me a happy birthday after checking my driver’s license.

Even the Melbourne Airport security officer who “randomly” selected me for an explosives scan was quite nice.

And the cabin crew on the aircraft were great. Good and genuinely friendly service, with one of the cabin crew wandering around constructing party balloon animals for passengers. Really nice touch. The plane was clean, the flight uneventful (unlike the return trip to Melbourne in high winds and one of the roughest landings I have ever experienced) the kids were well looked after, and we left and arrived on time.

Like I said above, it’s not always like this, but (especially on a day when you would normally expect a few late scratchings from the Qantas roster) the staff and flight crew on duty this day were fantastic.

Chris