Everyone in the airlines game is waiting to see if Alan Joyce will ‘fix’ a broken Qantas product as incoming chief executive officer.

The early evidence from yesterday’s talk fest with tourism leaders in Cairns is not encouraging.

When Joyce was running Jetstar, the airline was reportedly furious with Qantas for axeing non-stop flights to western Japan from Cairns.

But yesterday, to what Jetstar spokesperson Simon Westaway claims was rapturous applause, it announced it had solved the access problem by launching a domestic connection between the Gold Coast to Cairns to link up with new inbound services from Japan.

This is like deciding to serve the Osaka to Sydney market by making it fly there and back via Hobart.

The Japanese tourism market has two entrenched characteristics:

  1. It loathes the very notion of low cost carriers, and
  2. It is time poor.

So the Jetstar solution to the near death of Japanese tourism to far north Queensland is to fly what’s left of it right past Cairns, land them at the Gold Coast two hours later, shunt then through the international and domestic security screenings and then fly them north for another two hours on a much smaller and tighter fitting jet.

Welcome to Cairns, former gateway to the tropical north and Great Barrier Reef!

The spokesperson at Jetstar said that the airline had taken some “difficult decisions” and was “investing heavily in its hub strategies at the Gold Coast, Darwin and Perth.”

True but irrelevant. Qantas has already driven part of its Australia-Japan market onto code share partner Japan Airlines and grateful alliance partner Cathay Pacific by downgrading much of its frequency to Jetstar.

The Japan to Cairns via the Gold Coast strategy will result in total flight times at least one third longer than to Hawaii, or three hours longer than to Sydney, with the drudgery of an extra stop on the way.

The extra hours add to costs, especially in fuel, and double the exposure to airport and Australian air traffic control fees.

Qantas is being murdered on the routes to Europe by forcing its customers to transit London Heathrow, with plenty of faster and cheaper flights being offered by the competition over Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai.

Alan Joyce must know this. Why would he endorse this failed strategy in relation to flights to Cairns?

In the Crikey blog Plane Talking today, US regulator the FAA reveals the Lessons Learned from 11 of the worst airliner crashes of all time.

Peter Fray

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