Tomorrow when Qantas reports its full year results to June 30, we can expect more misleading rhetoric about how its international operations are mercilessly rendered uneconomic by competition from state run carriers and the ruinous pay claims of its employees, despite the best efforts of the world’s most overpaid airline executives.
But have a look at what the ‘new Spirit of Australia’ is doing to its flagship route to London, where it has traffic slots for up to four return A380 services daily.
The thinner red line on the top graphic is all that is left of the Qantas presence between Sydney-London, an A380 via Singapore, while Melbourne customers also get an A380 via Singapore to themselves.
The green squares are the gifting by Qantas to British Airways of the flights it could have operated, to provide its Australian service all the way to and from London, no matter whether via Singapore, Bangkok or Hong Kong.
But Qantas now expects those who are trying to support an Australian carrier to fly British Airways to deal with the overflow, its generosity with your loyalty so great that BA has had to upgrade its capacity from Boeing 777-200ERs for larger Boeing 747-400s, meaning the green squares representing those flights will be carrying far more seats previously provided on Qantas jets.
And unless the frequent flyer conditions are changed, anyone who is sold those BA operated flights using a BA rather than QF flight number will get less points on most economy fares than on Qantas. Unless you have joined the 82% of overseas travellers who have given up on Qantas in favor of competing airlines.
What is happening to Qantas is not about unfair competition, or the ‘outrageous’ pay demands of its staff, it is about the woefully dismal direction of the long haul carrier by a management and board that are infatuated with numbers games and the spread of the Jetstar franchise, and the abundant opportunities to flaunt the Qantas Sale Act because neither the government nor the opposition intends to do anything other than wring their hands and keep troughing it in the Chairmans Lounges.
While Qantas heads off to Asia to put full size sleeper seats in shorter range single aisle A320s in a new premium carrier (what on earth is Joyce thinking) it is running down its long haul operations in order to participate in an Asian market defended by obviously weak and unpopular and defenceless brands like Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific who will give up their markets overnight and make Qantas shareholders so fabulously rich that dividends will be reinstated.
For Qantas to trade on its Australian identity in these circumstances is obscenely misleading. The rationale offered for giving away half the London market is that it retires four aged 747s. Which have no real value except for scrap. That’s millions upon millions of dollars of future revenue hosed into the wind.
It won’t go to British Airways, but to the likes of Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific because, as the market has shown for more than a decade of declining Qantas participation, consumers aren’t that silly. The “I still call Australia home” message has lost its credibility. It no longer tugs the heart strings. It is a sham, just like the Qantas trans Tasman flights that are painted up as Qantas but flown by a New Zealand entity that Qantas claims for tax purposes is an independently managed Kiwi company which it isn’t game to call for what it is.
There is no doubt that Jetstar makes sense as a business investment, even though consumers in Australia might have noticed it is anything but cheap these days, and that the best deals are still found on Qantas domestic services.
But the seeming self hatred of Qantas for the costs of excellence, and its unwillingness to build the long haul carrier in favor of adopting a defeatist approach to fleet, schedule and product, is a tragedy for this country.