A passenger account of how yesterday’s Qantas service from Dallas Forth Worth to Sydney was delayed for almost 10 hours in a diversion to Nadi Airport in Fiji illustrates the abysmal passenger care standards and technical incompetence of the airline’s management, and helps explain why it is bleeding passengers to competing carriers.

Dallas Fort Worth-Brisbane-Sydney is a route Qantas launched in May with Boeing 747-400ERs which cannot reliably fly that route with a full payload, or with any assurance that passenger luggage might not be offloaded and travel on a later flight.

The launching of the route illustrates the same lack of technical competence in senior management that saw it shift its Rolls-Royce RB211 engine maintenance to a Hong Kong centre just as that power plant, used on different 747s from the ones used on the Dallas service, began to experience abnormal rates of in-flight failures.

Dallas Fort Worth is advertised as a reliable means of flying to and from New York and other American Airlines destinations via the hub established by that carrier midway between the two Texas cities.

It has proven to be anything but fast or reliable.  On this particular flight the passenger account makes some startling revelations:

  • Qantas tried to extend the duty hours of the pilots after they were forced to land at Nadi and would have exceeded the legal maximum had they resumed flight after refuelling and this was, not surprisingly, refused permission by CASA
  • Nadi was the last card the crew could play, as all other alternatives were closed by weather or significantly compromised in the case of Noumea.
  • The jet landed with 45 minutes worth of fuel, underlining the poor quality of flight planning and following in which Qantas operations had ample time in which to adopt an alternative route strategy, including delaying the departure or offloading more passengers or under floor baggage and freight.
  • Passengers were forbidden to use the toilets for a period after landing, adding to their discomfort.
  • They were also kept on board for a long period before being allowed into the terminal, handed a pathetic refreshments voucher, and not offered the use of hotel rooms, as was once a normal Qantas courtesy,  so that they could at least shower and sleep.

This account shows all the tell tale signs of a cost obsessed operation that doesn’t care two hoots about the normal courtesies and amenities that once loyal Qantas passengers used to expect from a full service carrier.

What continues to be a mystery is why Qantas was so focused on its relationship with American Airlines that it subjects passengers flying back to Sydney via DFW to a mandatory stop in Brisbane and the risk of a mid Pacific diversion when the airline’s A380s offer more comfortable cabins and much more reliable non-stop services from Los Angeles.

In answer to queries about this full service brand shambles, a Qantas spokesperson said:

“The QF8 service diverted to Nadi, Fiji due to forecasted fog in Brisbane.  Due to the expiry of crew operating hours, a replacement crew was required to operate the service to Brisbane.

Qantas remains confident in our Dallas/Fort Worth service and the operation of the Boeing 744ER on the route.”