This morning Qantas announced a raft of changes to their business, phased in over the next two years. I’ll dig into them and give you my opinion from a points redemption perspective, and what they mean for those looking to maximise the value of their Qantas point balances.
New opportunities to Europe on Malaysian Airlines (Istanbul, Rome, Amsterdam are examples given) – Win.
This was a bit of a no-brainer, given the recent announcements of the Malaysian partnership. I haven’t experienced their in-flight product, but in general, more options for redeeming your points in the most direct route to your destination is a good thing.
From what I hear, MAS offers a good Economy, Business and First product, and more redemption opportunities in one-stop to Europe routes and premium classes is a good thing for those looking to enjoy the maximum value for their points.
New A320’s (and upgraded 747’s) – Win.
New and upgraded aircraft = a more pleasant inflight experience. The A380’s are superb – although the big wins in my book are the quietness and improved air quality for the A380, ensuring Qantas’ current 747 fleet interior is upgraded to A380 quality is paramount to ensure Qantas 747 routes remain attractive.
However, the sooner the 747’s are upgraded, the sooner first class will be lost on all routes outside of Sydney/Melbourne – Singapore – London and Sydney/Melbourne – LA. So if you’re keen to try Qantas 747 first class, get in quick as First Class there will be gone soon as a result of the upgrade, not Qantas route rationalisation plans. It’s got me thinking about making a booking to Hong Kong (Johannesburg is also available) just to say I’ve done it.
Note – Sydney – Jo’Burg and Sydney – Hong Kong bookings in First are still available at the time writing up til August 2012, but this doesn’t mean you’ll actually get to fly F if you book for later next year – there’s currently no planned removal date, but it could come any time (hopefully with good notice).
New First lounges in Los Angeles, Singapore and Hong Kong – Win
The incentives to attain or retain Platinum status continue – and according to AusBT “the combined size of the business and first lounges in Los Angeles will be three times bigger than they are today” – superb for LAX given the existing size of that lounge as I saw when transiting through earlier in the year.
New Asian premium airline – Win (eventually)
New airline = new routes and opportunities for points redemption. AusBT quoted Alan Joyce as saying “The plan (for Qantas Frequent Flyer) is absoutely to leverage Qantas’ capability in the region. Huge opportunity for growth outside of Australia and customers on the premium airline will certainly have the opportunity to earn and burn frequent flyer points.” which is very promising. Will this new airline be part of oneworld? Who knows. I love more options though.
New Jetstar Japan business and new Asian Airlines – Mixed
More options for QF point redemptions (via Jetstar) – win. The fact that some route consolidation will inevitable occur for JAL over to JQ Japan – loss, especially for non Qantas oneworld points collectors.
Loss of Sydney – Buenos Aires route, replaced with Sydney – Santiago on LAN – Mixed
Sydney – Buenos Aires increasingly didn’t make too much sense on the routemap, given the lack of LAN South American access out of their Santiago hub. Moving Buenos Aires to Santiago as a direct service makes more sense – but it’s only 3 times a week. LAN will continue to service Sydney to Santiago as well, via Auckland – however that means LAN might pull out of that route (I hope not, given I’ve flown SYD-AKL twice now on great LAN Business fares). Hence the mixed rating – I don’t want to see LAN pull out of SYD-AKL, but it might be inevitable with their recent Jetstar partnership. This is due to happen in early 2012.
Bye-bye Bangkok – London and Hong Kong – London routes, now serviced by British Airways on QF codeshares – Loss
The change makes commercial sense, but you could already connect from Qantas to BA on flights from HKG and BKK to London so there’s nothing new here.
Properly aligning the connections is sensible and will save Qantas money, but I’m not a fan of BA’s Economy and Premium Economy options – their product is aging, and even in Business and (old) First, QF I believe trumps BA hands-down (caveat – I am yet to fly BA or QF First class, but have flown both in Business). The details of the announcement see BA taking over more LHR-HKG slots (+3), but overall it would seem that flights will be reduced as LHR-BKK will not be increased, QF haven’t announced any SYD-BKK or SYD-HKG increases and BA is pulling out of those routes. Overall, there will most likely be a loss in seats available.
However, if it means that reinvigorated 747’s can continue to ply Sydney – Frankfurt and Sydney – Jo’Burg, I’ll take that. The other upside is that BA will service SYD-SIN-LHR with a larger 747 over the existing 777 – more seats = more chances at redeeming points. These changes are due early 2012.
What could have been on the chopping board…
I’m very glad that Sydney – Frankfurt and Sydney – Jo’Burg routes have been retained. Both could have been axed given their outpost status on the QF network. QF still continue to fly directly to every continent on earth.
More Frequent Flyer benefits?
Qantas’ official announcement page also mentions “An even more rewarding Frequent Flyer program, with increased bonuses for Silver and Gold members, a new level of recognition for our most valued customers, and more ways to earn and redeem points for all members.” It’s not clear if these are recently introduced bonuses and Platinum One tier coming later in the year, or further changes are in the works – I hope just the former.
I want Qantas to succeed. I like the airline – I haven’t had a bad experience with them yet, and I value their commitment to a quality product. I also am a realist, and prefer a Qantas with a premium product thats thriving, with a future, over one with an extended route network that’s failing. If they feel this is necessary to continue to maintain or grow their business, then fair enough – as a general traveller, I can take route changes and revised partnerships on the chin. At least they are doing something. What will annoy me (and countless others) is if they do this in a way that is not open and communicative with their loyal customers – giving plenty of time and flexibility with changed bookings for example, and ensuring that they are truthful with their new marketing claims. The last thing any loyal QF traveller needs to is to spend a bunch of money or points on a mismarketed or poor experience – if Qantas claims one thing, and does another, that’s when it starts getting annoying. Whether that’s crap flight timings, inadequate partners or poor pricing – they need to handle the details of these changes well.
For some warm and fuzzy generic marketing about today’s announcements, here’s Alan Joyce hamming it up in front of the camera. Some seriously forced smiles here.
Some more on the announcements around the web
- Qantas’ official New Spirit page with full text of the speech.
- AusBT as usual did a sterling job covering the proposed changes – The route restructure,the A320 order and further 6 A380 delays, the launch of Jetstar Japan, the proposed new not Qantas Asian carrier, and the 1000 planned redundancies.
- Plane Talking covers some of the general reaction from the Federal Government and Pilot’s Union.
Qantas press releases on the changes are here – Santiago route, Jetstar Japan, lounge and 747 upgrades, BA Partnership, <a href=http://www.qantas.com.au/regions/dyn/au/publicaffairs/details?ArticleID=2011/aug11/5158a”>and the fleet arrangements.