By: Mike Crooks
Amid a reported 70 per cent rise in customer complaints, accusations of selling tickets for cancelled flights, and flight credits that came with a use-by date, Australia’s national carrier Qantas in on the nose.
The embattled airline, whose former CEO Alan Joyce faced a grilling over Qantas’ business practices in a parliamentary inquiry this month, is now trying to get back on side with customers and repair its tattered image.
This has involved Qantas lifting the expiration dates on vouchers provided after flights were cancelled during the pandemic.
“They’ve been pulling at heartstrings in their ads and making billions in profits, but then customers are hit with cancellations and bad service,” Associate Professor Tom van Laer of the University of Sydney’s Business School told the Guardian. “Everybody’s got a Qantas horror story now.”
The company’s new chief Vanessa Hudson is now looking to rejuvenate the world-famous brand.
“Right now, it feels like we’re facing another challenging time,” Ms Hudson, who has taken over as CEO following the resignation of Mr Joyce, wrote in an email to staff last week.
“We know that, post-COVID, we haven’t always delivered to what our customers expect. But we are listening, and we hear what they are saying.”
In the meantime, once-devoted Qantas customers may be looking elsewhere for their flights.
Like the nation’s choice of supermarkets, Australia is essentially a duopoly when it comes to plane travel.
The two biggies are Qantas (which includes Jetstar) and Virgin Australia.
But there are other smaller airlines, including the new Bonza and Rex.
Co-founded by English entrepreneur Richard Branson, Virgin flies to all capital cities plus regional areas including Broome and Cairns.
Like Qantas’s little sibling Jetstar, food is not automatically part of the service, but can be purchased in-flight. Flight prices vary with the amount of baggage and flexibility.
“The Virgin Group believes in making a difference and stands for the principles of value for money, quality, innovation, fun and a sense of competitive challenge,” reads a company statement.
Booking a week in advance in September, the cheapest economy flight for Sydney to Melbourne is around $149 each way. (Qantas has a similar economy rate.)
Rex (Regional Express)
Founded in 2002, Rex Airlines is one of Australia’s largest domestic carriers and operates in every state and the ACT.
It provides a cheap option to fly between cities, although not every route (such as Sydney-Perth) is available.
Rex “is a low-cost domestic airline in Australia that flies to small regional airports from its bases in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Townsville, and Cairns,” Webjet reports.
The airline operates to 60 airports in regional Australia including in Wagga Wagga, Mount Isa, Mildura, Monkey Mia and Port Augusta.
Like Virgin, a “Saver” flight from Sydney to Melbourne in September was $149 each way.
Bonza is relatively new on the scene and fills the budget void left by Tiger Airways’ departure from Australia in 2020 (due to the economic downturn during the pandemic).
Founded by a former Virgin exec Tim Jordan, Bonza prides itself as a low-cost, no-frills carrier.
Based on the Sunshine Coast, it has limited destinations.
“We fly routes connecting cities and regional hubs in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria,” the company states on its website.
On its launch earlier this year, it sold itself as the nation’s “bogan” airline, with the slogan, “Here for Allstralia”, and providing names for its aircrafts such as Sheila, Shazza, and Bazza.
Flights on Bonza can only be booked via its app.
Booking a week in advance in September, a return flight from Melbourne to the Gold Coast can cost under $200, depending on your baggage.
Formerly known as Fly Corporate, Link Airways is a regional carrier based in Brisbane.
It flies within most states and territories except SA, WA, and the NT.
There is also FlyPelican, which is the only regional airline based in Newcastle, NSW. The airline services NSW and ACT destinations.
For more information on airlines available in Australia, visit here.