Compared to even a year ago, Qantas seems to be losing its capacity to make headlines at home or abroad.

That’s a reasonable conclusion from racing through the Euro and UK media to see what impact its first loss since listing was making outside of Australian news reports.

This is one of the stories that does refer to Qantas, but only in passing.

However it would be unfair to blame the current management at Qantas for this lack of real interest. It apparently costs almost $200 million according to the latest financial accounts to have a CEO wake up one morning and suddenly decide to ground the airline and make news all around the world, so the publicity is probably never going to be worth the cost of doing this more than once a year, is it?

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And those that attended a ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney for the actual Qantas Q and A session on the release of its full year financial results described it as like turning up to the funeral of an unloved uncle and finding the chapel mostly empty, which was also unfair.  The legacy media, like the legacy airline in question, is facing something between outright extinction or a severe contraction in the very near future, and has its own management worries to deal with never mind the fate of Qantas long haul operations or whether the editor-in-chief gets booted from the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge.

If you at this time living in the UK or Euro Zone or perhaps soon to be ex-Euro Zone states in some cases, it might be surprising that any coverage of airline affairs made more than the News in Brief. Too much else has gone wrong, is going wrong, or is about to go incredibly catastrophically very, very wrong.

And those that can fly anywhere in or from, the Euro Zone and the UK are paying ruinous additional taxes and levies unheard of, fortunately, in Australia, while Australia as such is now as impossibly gold plated by its exchange rate as the UK was for us when it cost about three dollars to buy a pound.

There is however one thing to note in the Reuters story. And that is that the two now very large low cost carriers, Ryanair and easyJet, are making prodigiously good money compared to the supposedly full service large legacy carriers.

This ought to remind us not to glibly accept the notion that somehow business or premium fare travel is less affected than discretionary or leisure travel in hard times.

The inconvenient truth is that when business goes bad, so does business travel, and sometimes it also down trades to easyJet, which unlike Ryanair, embraces flying to major airports that are actually in or near the city they serve, not two hours away or in another country. EasyJet is not from all contemporary accounts, the same joyous experience as flying Qantas or Virgin Australia domestic. But is more like what a low cost carrier could be if it was run according to the more courteous and caring standards of the full service carriers, with fewer gotchas like Ryanair which is also in the headlines for recently charging a family £ 200 to print out their boarding passes at an airport.

The real problem common to the reporting of Qantas affairs at home and abroad, and those of overseas legacy carriers, is that the media seldom has the time or resources to go deeper into the PR summaries and the well rehearsed executive presentations and query management competency or strategy.

There are many obvious external factors to blame in airline performances in any country relating to the global and national economic outlooks or situations, but without a forensic inquiry into actual currency and fuel hedging practices we will never know, using Qantas as an example, how an airline that should have benefited from a strong Australian dollar, can get away with claiming that it is being ruined by falling fuel prices quoted in weak American dollars, or comparatively weaker Singapore dollars.

Such hard questions are not being asked by those media organisations that were once equipped to ask them. Why? Because they can no longer afford the costs of getting answers to such questions even if they are keen to pursue them.

This is a frustration for on-line alternatives too, including Plane Talking. Sole operators, without support, may have from their experiences and contacts, have a clear idea where the problems lie, but we don’t have the research assistants, nor the budgets for search fees, to pursue all of the possibilities, and if we were able to invest the time required to dig up the answers, the pace of events will have moved on to newer more pressing stories.

I subscribe to Crikey because I believe in a free, open and independent media where news and opinions can be published that I can both agree with and be challenged by.

As a Crikey subscriber I always feel more informed and able to think more critically about issues and current affairs – even when they don’t always reflect my own political viewpoint or lived experience.

Jess
Singapore

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