Furious customers and flight attendants say Qantas has gone from Australia’s ‘best to worst’ – with the airline’s once world-class reputation now in tatters after a series of post-Covid blunders.
And anyone hoping for a return to the glory years of aviation are likely to be disappointed with increased competition leading to rampant cost-cutting throughout the industry, an expert has warned.
Comforts like fine dining were once a staple of Qantas flights during the 1950s and 1960s, with cocktails and onboard smoking a key feature during the 1970s and 1980s.
Throughout the 1990s and in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks in 2001, the Spirit of Australia was seen as a premium carrier, with reasonable prices given the services offered.
But that stellar reputation could be starting to falter, Griffith University air transport and tourism management expert, Professor Gui Lohmann, told Daily Mail Australia.
Qantas employees and sacked workers have levelled extraordinary allegations against the airline. CEO Alan Joyce is pictured with Qantas crew in a stock photo
Customers say there is a complete lack of support staff at airports which is leading to massive delays, missed flights and lost luggage
‘If you look at Qantas or any airline now, it’s going to become more difficult to maintain that very high loyalty status they have previously enjoyed because passengers are far more conscious of costs,’ Prof Lohmann said.
‘They just want to go from A to B.’
Three decades ago, 90 minute flights in places like Australia and the US cost about $100. Despite inflation, passengers can expect to pay about the same today.
‘Technology allows us to transport more people, but as a result, the service is going to be different,’ Prof Lohmann said.
‘What Qantas used to be is actually unsustainable from a financial point of view with so many competitors.
‘I still think that Qantas is this iconic Australian airline experience, and yes – it’s going to take a lot to change that – but the business is changing, and they are under a lot of strain.’
Gui Lohmann, a Professor of Air Transport and Tourism Management at Griffith Institute said anyone hoping for a return to the glory years of aviation are likely to be disappointed. Pictured: The interior of a Qantas b707-138 which began service in 1959
Pictured: The First Class upper deck lounge of a Qantas Boeing 747 in 1971
Increased competition has led to rampant cost-cutting throughout the industry. Pictured: An economy class Qantas flight in the 1970s
Disgruntled workers recently revealed to Daily Mail Australia what it’s really like to work for the Flying Kangaroo, levelling extraordinary allegations against the airline amid a bitter court battle that could result in a multi-million dollar payout.
The Transport Workers Union took Qantas to court in late 2020, when it was ruled the airline illegally sacked nearly 2,000 baggage handlers, cleaners and ground staff before outsourcing their jobs to foreign-owned providers, including Swissport.
The trickle-down effect has seen jaded customers, including Frequent Flyer members, saying they are looking to other airlines when flying.
The Trade Workers’ Union says Qantas’s issues start at the top, and point to Alan Joyce’s mismanagement of the airline over the pandemic and its thousands of laid-off staff.
‘The fish rots from the head. The short-term focus of senior management on boosting profits to see share price blips has devastated Qantas’ once trusted service and left Australians outraged,’ TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Blaming passengers for delays over the Easter long-weekend while refusing to reinstate the highly trained workers it illegally sacked despite there being obvious demand for experienced workers in the industry shows how out-of-touch the Joyce-led management team has become.’
Mr Joyce at the time said the reason for the long queues was because passengers were not ‘match fit’ for travel and forgot to take their laptops and aerosols out of their carry-on luggage at the security gate.
Although the airline face continued to fend off the criticism, Mr Joyce told 2GB radi on Friday it was not acceptable and promised the upcoming school holiday break would be far smoother.
Daily Mail Australia has reached out to the CEO for further comment but were told he was ‘unavailable’.
A Qantas flight attendant in a floral dress serves a passenger a scotch on a 1970s business class
Food service begins onboard a Qantas Boeing 707-138 which began service in 1957
Party time begins in the first class upper deck lounge if a Qantas Boeing 747 in 1971
Qantas’ various social media accounts have been littered with complaints from angry customers looking to reignite their travel plans post-pandemic.
On Thursday, Guardian columnist Eleanor Gordon-Smith and her family were left stranded in Dallas, Texas after their flight back to Australia was abruptly cancelled.
Ms Gordon-Smith estimated 300 passengers were deserted in the American airport at 2am, with some forced to splash on hotels while others had to sleep on the floor.
‘Qantas cancelled QF8 at 2am, ~300 people in an airport. OK, it happens. Then ‘we have no plan for hotels, keep your receipts’, so the people with liquidity took a $100 uber to the only hotel. The rest slept on the floor. 9am when we’d been told to check in. No Qantas staff came,’ she tweeted.
‘150 people, some with kids, some with walker frames, who’d had 4 hours sleep on a marble floor, were standing in Dallas waiting for the flight they’d been told they’d be boarding and *not one ground staff member* came to the airport. No texts, phone calls, no updates on Google.
‘The DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport) staff had to say “we’ve been trying to reach the Qantas team, they are not answering, we don’t know why”.
‘THEN peoples’ Qantas apps start saying they’d been on the cancelled flight, so now no-one has an “active booking”. The flight has disappeared from the internet.
On Thursday, Guardian columnist Eleanor Gordon-Smith and her family were left stranded in Dallas, Texas after their flight back to Australia was abruptly cancelled
Ms Gordon-Smith likened the situation to ‘Lord of the Flies’ and said there were 300 people who were stranded in the American airport
Ms Gordon-Smith said Qantas customers had ‘nowhere to go’ and the regular Qantas desk wasn’t ‘just unmanned it has become a Lufthansa desk’.
‘No blankets, no hotel vouchers, *no* communication, and not one staff member at the airport to tell the 300 people who *you’d told to turn up at 9am* where their plane was,’ she said.
‘300 people have checked bags to nowhere.’
In a response, Qantas said they have staff on hand at the airport assisting the 300 Aussies trying to get home.
‘We know that this is a difficult situation for our customers whose plans have been disrupted, and we apologise for the inconvenience,’ a Qantas spokesperson said.
‘Our team at Dallas Fort Worth Airport provided customers with assistance after the initial delay and are helping customers ahead of the delayed departure.’
Mr Kaine said Qantas’s massive staff layoff has led to ‘untrained’ people in key positions, creating a ‘perfect storm of chaos’.
‘Qantas’ management team is public enemy number one when it comes to the mass exodus of skilled workers from aviation. Under the leadership of Alan Joyce, it has waged a decades-long war on secure jobs by targeting workers through overzealous redundancies and illegally outsourcing close to 2,000 secure ground crew jobs to external companies with poorer conditions,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Permanent jobs with strong conditions lost because of Qantas management’s actions have been replaced with highly casualised or part-time work with low pay.
‘Without an attractive offering to bring experienced workers back into the industry, those that remain are under enormous pressure to plug roster gaps, work alongside untrained office workers in baggage rooms, skip breaks and work to exhaustion.
‘Surging passenger numbers in these conditions led to the perfect storm of chaos and confusion passengers experienced over the long weekend.’
Qantas rejects the the unions claims that untrained staff are in key positions.
Airports around Australia and the world are experiencing cancelled flights, huge queues and lost baggage – with Qantas at the centre of the chaos
Many loyal Qantas customers have expressed their displeasure with the airline on social media, claiming it has moved away from its historically high standards – with one woman writing a brutal open letter to the ‘mean spirit of Australia’.
‘Maybe instead of spending money on glossy new ads filled with Aussie talent, you perhaps could do the bare minimum and answer the phone when your customers need assistance?’ Dr Sara Marzouk wrote.
‘Maybe you can invest in providing jobs onshore by establishing call-centres where the staff actually have a clue about what they can and cannot do?
‘Stop blaming this on COVID. These issues of poor customer service pre-dated the pandemic but have been exacerbated by them. No other airline has shown such contempt.
‘You need to do better.’
Another woman named Dee tweeted at Qantas on Monday,
‘When did you change to a high-cost low service airline? Gone from best in class to worst,’ a woman named Dee tweeted to the airline’s account.
Angry Qantas customers say the once-beloved airline has gone from Australia’s ‘best to worst’ after a series of cost-cutting measures were introduced through the pandemic
Herald Sun columnist Rita Panahi responded to the post, saying: ‘The corporate virtue signalling is as painful as their inferior service’.
Others said Qantas’ service has become ‘horrible’, saying its offshore call centres had made managing their booking a nightmare.
The airline has a priority call centre in Hobart for its top customers, with everyone else being referred to offices in New Zealand, South Africa, the Philippines and Malaysia.
Customers have posted images of extensive wait times to speak to Qantas support staff, with one man waiting longer than six hours for a response.
‘Absolutely disgraceful. South African call centre working a charm. Been on the phone for almost 10 hours across three days. Inept and rude,’ a passenger named Jack posted to Twitter.
‘Your website has not allowed me to make a booking the last three days and your call centre claims to be too busy to pick my calls the last two days,’ another man named Shiva wrote.
A chiropractor named Anthony said he had been attempting to get ahold of the airline for days regarding a flight that had changed departure time.
‘Would it be too much to ask for a response on any platform inc phone? We have been trying to contact you for weeks now regarding a flight that have changed on us and nothing. And when we do, your CS rep has failed to resolve the issue! What a disgrace!’
‘You need to do better’: Dr Sara Marzouk’s BRUTAL letter to Qantas
My name is Sara.
I’m one of the many many MANY Australians who are pretty frustrated with you at the moment.
Thankfully, I’m not in the situation that my close friend finds herself in, where you’ve cancelled her flight at short notice and she’s stressed out of her mind trying to contact you to sort this out before her flight next week.
Nor am I in the position where you’ve charged me for flights that you haven’t ticketed, despite those flights being imminent.
Nor am I one of the unlucky ones who have found that you’ve rebooked them onto different flights and different cabin classes without any prior notice and without any consideration for the fact that such changes cause them to miss connecting flights.
No, I’m just one of the long line of customers who has been double charged for flights or other services purchased through your website. Some of whom are unable to pay for other bills because your double-charging has resulted in an inability to honour other expenses.
Dr Sara Marzouk (pictured) unleashed on Qantas in a furious Facebook post
Unlike the above groups of people, who are desperately waiting on the phone for HOURS for anyone to pick up and help them, I draw the line when I’ve been on hold for over an hour. For three consecutive days.
You see, I have a life to live. And spending it on hold waiting for help from your customer service squad is demoralising. Especially when the call cuts out after waiting for way too long.
So I’ve emailed you.
I’ve Facebook messaged you.
I’ve tweeted a reply to you.
Here is the issue.
Australians are pretty annoyed right now. I’m one of them.
You’re our national airline. We want to support you.
Our tax dollars contributed to the $2 billion dollars of assistance our Government gave you during the pandemic.
Maybe instead of spending money on glossy new ads filled with Aussie talent, you perhaps could do the bare minimum and answer the phone when your customers need assistance?
Maybe you can invest in providing jobs onshore by establishing call-centres where the staff actually have a clue about what they can and cannot do?
Stop blaming this on COVID. These issues of poor customer service pre-dated the pandemic but have been exacerbated by them. No other airline has shown such contempt.
You need to do better.
One Qantas customer posted an image after being on hold with its South African call centre for more than six hours
Others say they’ve experienced two-hour waits while attempting to contact Qantas support
The airline, which argued the outsourcing was a necessary financial measure during the Covid pandemic, appealed the ruling and lost – but has since taken the case to the High Court in a last-ditch bid to avoid paying a mammoth compensation bill.
Cost-cutting was magnified by the pandemic, with 15,000 workers laid off without pay or forced to take leave in mid-2020, while another 2,500 were stood down in August, 2021 – despite Qantas receiving $2billion in government assistance.
Qantas maintain the moves were necessary due to losing $22billion in revenue and losses in excess of $5billion over the pandemic. It also said the government handouts in part went towards continuing repatriation and freight flights during the pandemic.
Customers lamented the airline’s reduced staff, with many saying they are having trouble resolving issues as a result.
‘I cancelled a flight with you and it’s still showing up. I would have thought there has been a fair bit of that in the last couple of years – maybe you shld have kept some staff on to deal with things like your helpline taking 2 hours to get thru on?’ a Qantas flyer named Nicola wrote to Twitter.
‘I’ve been trying to get support with a refund for 14 weeks now and keep getting palmed off, told I’ll get a call or email back that never comes. What’s the go? Can some help?’ a man named Ethan tweeted.
Dozens of customers have taken to Twitter to share their trouble getting in contact with Qantas staff – with many of its call centres now located offshore
People say they’ve been waiting months for refunds for Qantas flights
Almost 2,000 Qantas baggage handlers were laid off during the pandemic, replaced by third-party foreign companies – with Aussies reporting long delays waiting for their luggage since the decision.
‘You cancel my first flight and then rebook me to a later flight. Then when we arrive in Sydney there a no gates available. Now over an hour waiting for bags to come off,’ a woman wrote to the airline’s Twitter account.
The national secretary of the Trade Worker’s Union, Michael Kaine, said he recently experienced significant delays during a Qantas trip, again referring to laid-off workers.
‘Another Qantas delay for me today as no ground crew for connecting flight – as 2000 highly experienced, illegally sacked ground staff ready willing and able sit at home gutted by the betrayal of management of the Spirit they built,’ he wrote.
Another customer was referred to Qantas’ South African call centre – waiting nearly three hours to get through to a real person
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine on his recent experiences with the airline
Qantas’ statement on extensive call centre wait times
The recent call wait times that our customers have been experiencing are not acceptable. We sincerely apologise to customers who have had to spend so long to speak to someone and we thank them for their patience.
No airline’s contact centres were designed to be able to manage the record number of calls and complexity of queries for COVID-era travel, particularly when international travel is involved.
Our call volume has increased from an average of 7,500 calls a day to 14,000 calls a day, with calls on average taking 50 per cent longer to resolve than pre-COVID given the complexity of some itineraries across more than one airline where routes are re-opening and flights are re-starting at different times.
This is being driven by a combination of factors. The flexibility we’ve provided customers during the pandemic to defer bookings has meant that as travel normalises large numbers of people are wanting to use these bookings that are up to two years old. We also see large spikes in calls every time there is a change to travel conditions somewhere in the world, such as the announcement that New Zealand was opening up three months earlier than expected. Around two third of calls we receive relate to international travel.
The call centres are the only part of our business that grew during the pandemic. We’ve already added hundreds of staff to our call centres, and each month we are recruiting and training more people. By June this year, we’ll have increased staffing by 200 per cent (an increase of 750 people) within 12 months. It takes six weeks to train new call centre agents.
We have invested in technology to enable customers to manage their bookings and use flight credits via the website or app. While we understand that many people often want to talk to another person to resolve issues, about 60 per cent of the calls we receive could be resolved online, so we’re providing resources, including a series of ‘how-to’ videos, to help customers see how they can resolve their issues faster online.
Given the volume and the increased complexity of customer queries, it will take some time for call wait times to normalise, but we’re working every day to improve the experience for our customers.
Last month, Daily Mail Australia spoke to loyal workers who feel Qantas have badly damaged the relationship between airline and employees.
‘Crew are disillusioned and hurt,’ a Qantas flight stewardess, who wished to remain anonymous, told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We literally put our lives on the line on a daily basis. We face violence from passengers angry about masks, we run towards fire and smoke.
‘It’s so hard to show up and keep trying when we have nothing to give people. We’re expected to work miracles with zero resources and the company knows we are all emotionally invested so we go the extra mile for our passengers because we care.’
People say they’ve had significant delays waiting for their luggage – after Qantas laid off nearly 2,000 baggage handlers for cheaper overseas companies
Others are begging Qantas’ Twitter account for a response after finding no support
Workers say fractures began to appear with Qantas management because of its Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, which the airline looked to change at the end of last year – a move unions say is an attempt to ‘take advantage’ of the pandemic.
Qantas proposed changing conditions around crews working long haul flights on previously domestic planes which it claims are ‘restrictive and outdated rostering processes’, but 97.4 per cent of staff recently voted against the proposed EBA.
Under their proposal, the smaller, cheaper A330 planes would be used for some international flights – but the current EBA says long haul international staff cannot work on these aircrafts because they don’t have private cabins for workers.
Unions believe the move would lead to more redundancies and offshoring, but Qantas claimed that was the ‘last thing we want’.
‘The FAAA [Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia] ran a scare campaign against the new deal, claiming it would mean redundancies and offshoring, despite the fact that we’re currently hiring new crew in Australia,’ Qantas International CEO Andrew David said.
‘The union’s default position is that the company can’t be trusted and should always give more. That’s simply wrong.’
In March, Qantas confirmed it had struck an agreement with workers over a new EBA, which is due to be approved by Fair Work.
But workers told Daily Mail Australia they felt they had ‘no choice’ but to vote yes after seeking advice from unions.
The new EBA proposed by Qantas want to see international workers aboard the A330 planes – but flight staff rejected it because the planes don’t have sleeping quarters for workers
Employees were warned if they rejected the new EBA and Qantas took the issue to Fair Work to have the current agreement torn up, they would face going onto the government’s award system and see their pay slashed.
‘We voted no to start, 97.4 per cent. Then they applied to terminate our agreement and we would have lost probably. They said we could vote again but if it’s a no they will proceed with the termination application,’ a current employee told Daily Mail Australia.
‘If that happened we would go onto the modern award, which is basically the government-mandated safety net.
‘Not only would our rostering conditions have gone into the toilet, but my pay would have halved. For example, some senior flight attendants’ pay would go from $47 an hour to $26 an hour – to manage 10 crew and 400 passengers on an A380.
‘So in the second vote, most of us agreed under extreme duress, basically with a gun to our heads, figuring they would just have to start looking for a new job.’
Qantas said the new agreement was necessary to cope with post-pandemic rules around travelling and the demands of a restarting post-pandemic world.
It said all employees would be handed 1,000 shares in the company, worth about $5,500, in August next year if certain financial goals were met.
The airline also confirmed it had significantly increased the allowances for all employees which will afford them more comfortability and freedom.
‘In addition to removing restrictive and outdated rostering processes, the agreement includes a six per cent pay rise over the life of the agreement and higher allowances for our crew,’ a spokesperson said.
‘While all of the signs are positive, there is definitely work to do to rebuild demand and navigate ongoing border uncertainty in many of our overseas destinations.
‘We’re expecting to be flying at 45 per cent of our pre-COVID capacity by the middle of the year and continue to look at new destinations to get more of our aircraft and people back in the air as we rebuild our network.’
A current flight attendant said the relationship has been badly damaged, with Qantas refusing to budge on working conditions.
‘People were a bit p**sed off at how Covid was handled but the attitude definitely shifted around the EBA vote and leading up to it,’ the woman told Daily Mail Australia.
‘There is a pretty big feeling that they presented a sh** agreement so we would vote no and they would have the ammunition they needed to go to Fair Work and apply for termination of our agreement.
‘When they came to us and proposed that they were going to fly the domestic aircraft on the [Brisbane to Los Angeles] route we tried to work with them and they rejected every single suggestion – anything over 14 hours we need lie-flat rest – this is in the EBA.
‘We offered to do it for an extra day of rest in LA and an extra day of rest at LAX or home after – it was rejected. We offered to have Australian onboard managers in a single business class seat while the rest of the crew have these ‘four-seat beds’, that was rejected.’
The stewardess said she recently worked a 12-hour return flight between Sydney and Perth that had no water or rest beds for pilots and flight crew.
Alarming photos taken on board A330 Qantas airplanes show flight attendants had to create makeshift shelters from blankets to sleep while working on flights up to 14 hours long.
Red sheets and blankets were photographed hung over the backs of seats with staff sleeping across rows underneath, which Qantas workers say is taking their dignity.
Cabin crew onboard a flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles were forced to create makeshift shelters from blankets among passengers to sleep privately
‘We were supposed to have a soundproof light proof curtain to protect our rest. The crew have been making cubbies out of blankets to get rest and protect their dignity and security while sleeping in the open passenger cabin,’ the stewardess said.
‘It’s so unsafe. If an oxygen mask falls nobody will be able to reach it. Girls in skirts and dresses are having to wrap themselves so nobody can see up their skirt.
‘We’ve always been banned from taking rest in the cabin as it’s a ‘brand risk’, it’s a complete sh** show.’
Qantas has instead turned to its Auckland-based flight crew to work aboard the A330 long haul flights, as New Zealand workers aren’t protected by the same rest laws as Australian staff.
‘The ‘spirit of Australia’ is nine New Zealanders laying across passenger seats to LA,’ the stewardess said.
Qantas said they were forced to use Kiwi staff because unions didn’t support their staff working aboard the A330 planes.
‘We have thousands of Australian based crew flying domestically and internationally. A small amount of flying is being done by New Zealand based crew because the union was not prepared to support Australian based crew working on longer routes with some of our A330 aircraft, including the Brisbane to Los Angeles route, on terms that we were able to agree to,’ a spokesperson said.
‘We wanted to have our Australian-based crew do this flying, but without the union’s support for this to happen, we’ve instead had to use New Zealand based crew on some of these flights.’
A330 planes are used for flight under 14 hours and are not fitted with private sleeping cabins for the crew
Flight staff feel abandoned by the company they love so dearly, saying Qantas has used them as ‘punching bags’ for disgruntled travellers looking to travel post-pandemic.
‘We risk the passengers losing respect for us and then becoming non-compliant to safety instructions. Violence towards crew is on the rise, we follow American aviation trends,’ another anonymous stewardess told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Passengers are angry at delays and what they perceive is bad customer service because we’re tired and understaffed. We’ve got no fight left and no tools to help recover people, all we can do is listen.
‘We can’t even tell people to call the call centre for help (because it’s hopeless and the wait times are extremely long). We’re basically punching bags.’