Some 75 years to the day, Qantas was nationalised by the Chifley government, marking the beginning of a golden era for the national airline known for being ‘The Spirit of Australia’.
Fast toward to the present day and the carrier is going through heavy turbulence — from apologising to a customer for losing their father’s ashes, to cancelling one in 10 flights last month.
Then this week, there was a very public demand from the tagline’s author to Qantas CEO Alan Joyce to strip ‘The Spirit of Australia’ off all branding.
Qantas has also come under fire from its own sector. Travel agents are seething that the carrier slashed their multi-million-dollar commissions from 5% to 1% as of July 1, with a slew of other airline carriers following suit.
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And customers are devastated, irate and everything in between.
There are stories of luggage disappearing for the entire duration of a trip away, flight disruptions leaving hundreds sleeping in a US airport, and hours-long waits on the phone to customer service agents who may or may not be able to help them, even though flight vouchers expire soon.
This week, SmartCompany readers shared their Qantas heartbreaks and horror stories.
Annie Oeding says she was a “very proud” Qantas cabin crew inflight manager for 30 years.
“Loved my job, my [people], our reputation, our safety contribution,” she said.
“I am now ashamed of the company and how [the] CEO has totally destroyed our wonderful international icon. I’m beyond sad.”
Oeding says she found it difficult to stomach that Qantas accepted government support during the pandemic but went on to sack 2000 staff, a decision the Federal Court twice declared illegal.
Another reader, who called themselves Ossie, says “Qantas used to be the company everyone was proud of, employees and non-employees alike”.
“Employee morale is so low it is heartbreaking. And it is only going to get worse, much worse, as the sense of love for the company they work is dead,” Ossie continued.
“In the past staff would go out of their way to make sure things went as smoothly as possible if there was a glitch, because they loved Qantas.
“Now most staff feel abused and have no interest at all in going the extra mile to make sure Joyce gets his bonuses.
“The only solution is [to] get rid of him and replace him with someone who actually does get what ‘The Spirit of Australia’ means.”
And some of the travel horror stories are enough to make you forget about booking that winter getaway interstate.
One reader, Nicole, arrived at her destination and was told her bags didn’t come too. So she filed a lost baggage claim.
Then, she was told her baggage claim had disappeared too, with no record of it on the system.
Dismayed, she filed a second baggage claim with a besieged staff member dealing with a crowd of 30 other people.
“Bags arrived five days later — website didn’t work so could not track the bag, no one in Sydney or Cooloongatta would answer the phone,” Nicole said.
Irene Freeman says her bags went AWOL too. She was forced to pay $300 so she would have clothes to wear on a cruise.
Two weeks later, her bags have still not been found, she says.
“No help from Qantas only to tell me to keep tracking … This is how our national carrier treats us.
“No compensation as yet, terrible service.”
Susan Wanmer says Qantas’ fall from grace shows how consumers trust a brand — “or lose trust in this case”.
Sure, Wanmer says, Qantas is reeling from the impact of the pandemic in terms of labour shortages, but “the customer does not care”.
“Communication, care of needs, show of customer-centric actions are needed consistently to mend and improve damaged relationships here,” she said.
“A company needs to personalise itself in this day and age and upgrade its understanding of service. It needs to ‘upmanage’ or internalise its pain, rather than sharing its justifications with consumers.
“Why? Because consumers are powerless in the commercial relationship … other than choosing to leave by voting with their feet.”
What’s your expereince with Qantas? Comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org