A 717, the last Jetstar jet into which the writer’s rear end fitted

Long suffering flyers have an interesting spat to contemplate between Choice and Jetstar, the airline that forgot your kneecaps and hip bones, and sometimes tries to flog its miserable seats for more than Qantas, its esteemed full service owner, because it might just think consumers are lazy or stupid.

Choice has published an unflattering, but ludicrously irrelevantly constructed consumer ratings survey in which Jetstar to quote “ranked dead last in a survey of international airlines, losing out to more than 70 rivals from eight different countries.”

Jetstar has published a somewhat telling, but also in some respects, dubious rebuttal.

Since the Jetstar URL is one that gets overwritten, here is the guts of its response.

Consumer group Choice airline survey

28 April 2017

  • There are a lot of holes in this latest Choice survey, including leaving out our main competitor Tiger because they didn’t collect enough responses, so the veracity of the report is questionable.
  • Choice seem to enjoy criticising airlines without understanding the safety standards we operate to or recognising the role of low cost carriers in making travel more affordable for millions of Australians.
  • We know how important it is to get customers to their destination on time, and we recognise there is room for improvement and our team is doing a lot of work behind the scenes. Weather is often the source of delays, particularly in the more tropical destinations we operate to, and we’ll always put safety before schedule.

Background

  • Jetstar has been named the best low cost carrier in the Asia Pacific for six years running by SkyTrax, an internationally recognised and accredited ranking.

Let’s deal with the Skytrax bit first. In this reporter’s opinion, Skytrax polls are the stuff of lazy reporters writing up listicles because they don’t have the skills or editorial direction needed to engage in real news reporting.

Unless or until Skytrax publishes intimate and thoroughly independently audited details as to how it makes its money each year and from which airlines, and explains at length how it prevents multiple voting and other means of rigging an opinion poll result, its claims should be treated with as much caution as the polling for pre-selection in inner city seats for Australian political parties.

And that doesn’t mean being audited by any of those high profile ratings companies or accounting enterprises that totally failed to get the Global Financial Crisis right either.

Indeed, to complete the digression, the only airline preference polling that ought to be trusted should be done by the Australian Electoral Commission, or appropriately credentialed UN observers.

Choice didn’t even poll consumers in the UK, the US, Germany, or any country in Asia. It must think its readers in Australia are idiots. As must Jetstar in relation to its customers if it places even a shred of confidence in a Skytrax poll.

The experiences of this reporter, and his much more widely travelled circle of friends and associates and family, point convincingly to value-for-money as being the only basis for choosing one airline over another.  Value-for-money includes of course frequency, punctuality, reliability, amenity, courtesy, and as always, safety.  But safety isn’t front of mind for most flyers in Australia. It’s a long time since TAA and Ansett-ANA flights crashed killing all onboard on various domestic flights in this country. That isn’t to devalue the critical importance of safety, but to suggest that most of us fear acts of terrorism much more than we are influenced in carrier choice by doubts about safety standards.

Jetstar is the Qantas bet on price being the prime determinant for airline choice for many flyers not only within Australia but across Asia where it has a trans border Jetstar branded low cost franchise. It’s a bet on where newly minted middle classes in this hemisphere will spend their travel money. It’s also yet to prove an abundantly lucrative bet, but it is clearly useful as a means of driving productivity or cost improvements in the industry in general, and in its worst manifestations, bloody uncomfortable as a flying experience.

The low price thing is also at times more perception than reality, as anyone who inadvertently clicks on a Jetstar flight when making a booking on the Qantas website can sometimes discover, and its critical for consumers to keep in mind the cost of extras in low cost carriers in general when making bookings anywhere on the planet.  The fare differences in total between low cost and full service can be trivial, or even non-existent.

The over arching problem with low cost carriers world wide is that they seem responsible for some full service brands undermining their own product standards by cramming the seats in tighter than ever in the history of jet airliners, cutting back on toilets, and insinuating extra or ancillary charges into the booking process.

A more in depth and properly resourced reporting of relevant consumer issues was once a strong point of Choice. And the ‘established’ print media as well. But those of us in the media have fallen on hard times. The money isn’t there any more. Maybe consumers don’t really give a rat’s either. The article in Choice is just a shabby piece of crap, and deeply disappointing. And Yes, flying with Jetstar isn’t great either. Jetstar is trying to be a better airline, although at times it is just ‘trying’ in the other sense of the word.

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