Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways, which has been under fire lately for cancelled flights and service shortfalls, issue an apology of sorts on Sunday (17 July), but also forecast more trouble ahead for passengers.
Travellers have been angered by delays and cancelations have lashed out at the airline and Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce, particularly over a decision to shed thousands of jobs. The carrier had Australia’s worst domestic flight-cancellation record in May, scrapping 7.6 percent of its services, or one in 13.
“Much has been said about Qantas in the last few months. Some of it’s fair, as we’re absolutely not delivering the service that our customers expect, but some of it fails to take into consideration what’s happening across the industry here and around the world,” said Qantas Domestic and International CEO Andrew David. “The pandemic was very tough on aviation. Economically, most airlines were on their knees. Early in the pandemic we were 11 weeks from bankruptcy and have since posted $6 billion in losses and over $24 billion in lost revenue. But because Qantas came into the pandemic in a strong position, and as a result of making some very difficult decisions, we’ve been able to weather the storm.There are number of factors that have led to the problems we are seeing right now.”
David said restarting an airline after a two-year grounding “is complex and aviation labour markets, as with many others, are extremely tight. Compounding that is the fact that COVID cases are steeply on the rise again at the same time as the winter flu season”.
David also said the anger about the airline’s decision to outsource ground handling operations was misplaced. “Some have pointed to Qantas’ decision to outsource ground handling as a key reason the restart has been hard. This is not true. We had completed the ground handling changes before Easter 2021 when domestic travel was back to almost 100 percent, and we didn’t have the issues we had at Easter this year,” David said. “Others are using scaremongering tactics by making safety claims that are baseless and simply false. Every supplier we work with must adhere to our strict safety management system – a system that sees us consistently rated with the safest airlines in the world. Sadly, this is not the first-time false claims have been made by a union to further an industrial agenda.”
David said the problems the airline – and others – are facing are “because of COVID and flu-related sickness, as well as an extremely tight labour market. It’s a difficult truth that airlines, airports, air traffic control agencies and almost every business in Australia and around the world is experiencing. We are working hard to proactively manage this challenge. We’ve recruited more than 1,000 people, rostering more people on stand-by, consolidating flights on to bigger aircraft, basing more customer support team members at our airports and have doubled the number of people working in our call centres, with average wait times now better than they were pre-COVID. As challenging as the recent travel peaks in Australia have been, airlines and airports in Europe, the US and the UK are dealing with far worse impacts. In an unprecedented move, Heathrow Airport has capped the number of passengers travelling through the airport and asked airlines to stop selling seats over the European summer. Given COVID and flu will be ongoing, there will be a few more bumps along the way, but over the weeks and months ahead flying will get back to being as smooth as it used to be.”