Qantas left friendless in Asia, and Oneworld doubts rise
Qantas is becoming not only less of an airline for all of Australia, but one that has not yet lived up to any of the hype about Asia whether through a low cost franchise in Asia, or a new premium franchise in Asia.
Missing as yet from the Qantas announcements yesterday that it was doing really very little about better services to Asia, apart from cutting Perth and Adelaide loose, is exactly how business travellers to Singapore or Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, including Emirates code shares, are going to connect for onward destinations deeper into China, India, Thailand and the Mekong delta nations.
Does it seriously think a change of gauge to a Jetstar franchise flight is going to compete with what Singapore Airlines and Virgin Australia can offer over Changi for example?
And apart from gee whiz reporting about hypothetical 787-9 Dreamliner services non-stop to everything on the Asia map sometime after 2016, and possibly on Jetstar tight pack 787-8s before then, what exactly will its business travellers get this year, which is what counts?
Simon Hickey, the CEO of the newly separating loss making Qantas international business, even cast doubts on the previously firm commitment by group CEO Alan Joyce, to take a flat bed in business class in long haul A330-200s to the board for approval, which isn’t a doubt loyal premium customers would wish to entertain.
This has implications for Qantas continuing in the Oneworld marketing alliance in which it was a foundation member alongside British Airways and American Airlines in 1998. Part of the Oneworld model, apart from its contempt for the rules of grammar by insisting on the use of a lower case ‘o’, is that members code share on each others networks because, duh, it is an alliance.
And Emirates doesn’t think global alliances work as intended, has always stayed out of them, even when it was just a small Arab world airline going nowhere, and almost certainly made the right call. Global alliances may please some travellers, but by and large they mean sod all when airlines like Qantas and more recently Virgin Australia have made the call that the important deals are route specific deals, like the soon to be discarded joint services agreement Qantas had BE, before Emirates, with BA, British Airways.
The BA action in cutting off Qantas will however alienate those Qantas customers who don’t want to fly Emirates, having believed no doubt all of the anti-Emirates lobbying that Qantas carried on with right up until early June last year when all of a sudden the Emirates deal came through.
And those who claimed that Malaysia Airlines would on joining Oneworld, provide alternative succor for Qantas customers who could instead use its services to Europe and the other parts of Asia via Kuala Lumpur, now have to deal with shock of finding that they will be discriminated against in their points earnings on the Malaysia flag carriers flights.
Which means two things have gone down in flames over the Qantas Asia ‘expansion’. One is the utility of the onward connections provided by Qantas, since they are inferior in quality or frequency or non-existent except over Hong Kong through the indulgence of Cathay Pacific. And the other is that Oneworld is about to become Noworld as far as most of Asia and Europe is concerned for whatever loyal customers Qantas is able to hang onto.
Qantas doesn’t get several really important things. It doesn’t get Jetstar being unacceptable to Qantas full service customers, especially mid-trip, in a connecting airport in Asia. And it doesn’t get people being promised, many times, a premium Qantas minority yet Qantas controlled version of Jetstar, an absolute anti-Jetstar, based in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, or anywhere Qantas could put it, which Joyce had promised would be flying by the end of last year.
This is a very sad state of affairs. Qantas is becoming not only less of an airline for all of Australia, but one that has not yet lived up to any of the hype about Asia whether through a low cost franchise in Asia, or a new premium franchise in Asia.
Ben Sandilands has reported and analysed the mechanical mobility of humanity since late 1960 - the end of the age of great scheduled ocean liners and coastal steamers and the start of the jet age. He’s worked in newspapers, radio and TV in a wide range of roles as a journalist at home and abroad for 56 years, the last 18 freelance.