The ugly news photos of a jammed leading edge flap on an aged Qantas 747-300 that was about to take off for a trans Tasman flight from Sydney on Saturday are another exhibit in the case that can be made that the airline hasn’t fixed the under resourcing of its fleet maintenance.

Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon, who leaves the company this Friday, said three months ago that the unreliability of its services would be fixed in two to three weeks.

That proved wrong. He also said the high profile given many of the incidents that had delayed Qantas flights, including several major in flight emergencies, had damaged its reputation. That turned out to be right.

Qantas cut too deeply into the investment in maintenance that is essential for the reliable running of its operations. But it was prudent about the safety side of the cost cutting coin. Its jets flew late and stranded and inconvenienced many thousands of passengers because airliners that a less scrupulous carrier might have tried to keep in service were kept on the ground.

However Qantas management seems to have been oblivious to the risk that screwing down engineering and maintenance resources would cause massive dislocation to its customers, and self harm to its brand.
This Friday Alan Joyce takes over from Dixon. Joyce must invest in the resources needed to keep the Qantas fleet serviceable, and not heed the popular line within the company that everything will be right once the delays in taking delivery of new, less care intensive jets have been overcome.

That is going to take three or four years on current indications. The punters aren’t going to tolerate even another year like the last 12 months.

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