Wednesday, May 30, 2007

In defence of Qantas

I am well known for my comments on how Qantas needs to work on improving its customer service, get its Video On Demand system to work, correct the branding and business strategy for ReadyRooms and other comments best described as constructive criticism. However I do not agree with the harsh criticism coming out of a report from Australian consumer watchdog magazine Choice.

The Survey was based on responses from 4,000 subscribers to Choice magazine and has the following comments in the summary:
The surprise result was that Qantas — the national carrier and the airline most survey respondents had flown with — was rated the least satisfactory airline for international travel and the second least satisfactory in the domestic market. [my emphasis]
Newspapers that picked up the story carried even more harsh commentary. The Sydney Morning Herald said
The public's perception of Qantas has sunk so low that a survey by the consumer advocacy magazine Choice has given the carrier the lowest ratings for leg room, value for money, in-flight service and food of any major airline serving Australia. [my emphasis]
News.com.au was even tougher declaring
QANTAS has been forced to defend its customer service after being voted the worst international airline in an Australian survey [my emphasis]
I am a top tier Qantas flyer and would love them to make product improvements in how attentive the staff are, the speed of responses to requests for assistance on board, the ground staff's attitude and the "cost" for free frequent flyer tickets. Particularly I want a return to a customer service culture rather than a process culture. However to call them the worst of the international airlines (even with the qualifier "major") servicing Australia is simply untrue and a misrepresentation.

For a start the survey only covered 7 airlines - Singapore, Emirates, Cathay, Thai, Air New Zealand, Qantas. Yet all of the news coverage sounded definitive in declaring Qantas the worst. Simply not true. There is no contest in picking Qantas over scores of major airlines that fly to Australia but are not included on this list including United, Korean, Asiana, Gulf Air (though they just wound up Australian services), ANA, JAL and more.

Secondly even if you focus on just those on the list, the comparison is not fair. Thai and Malaysian have amongst the most cramped seats in the sky with terrible in-flight entertainment. All factors being equal (which means no significant price difference), no one of sound mind would fly with them over Qantas.

Finally the survey itself has been conducted with flawed methodology. The responses where voluntary and by means of filling in an insert to a magazine. There was nothing to ensure that there was a reasonable demographic split in the results. Most likely few if any of the respondents had flow more than two of the airlines in the list and the majority had only flown Qantas. Therefore you have a self selecting sample size that has experienced only a limited range of the products being sample. The effect was that there was a outpouring of anti-Qantas angst and little in the way of balance consumer feedback.

In defence of Choice, they acknowledge this a little in their summary section saying
We can only speculate that the difference in results beween that survey and CHOICE’s might be due to ours having an Australian rather than international base, and a tendency for people to have high expectations of their national carrier and so to be particularly critical of it.
Even with my defence of Qantas in this post there are important conclusions that Qantas should draw from this report. Though the survey is flawed, the conclusions over stated and sample size too small - the fact that 4000 people wrote in to say they were annoyed that Qantas does not deliver what they promise but still fly them is an important indicator of what could happen to Qantas if more competition is introduced. Qantas plays a dangerous game in simply relying on the size of its frequent flyer membership to measure loyalty. Surveys like this - while flawed - can provide a window into pent up consumer demand for change and improvement.

Oh and shame on the media organisations for falling for this beat up.

3 comments:

Paolo Bartolozzi said...

I fly all the time and Qantas is one of my favourite airlines. Emirates has proven to be extremely un-reliable when it comes to fixing some mess they created. I used Emirates several times to fly to india and there were always delays resolving in having to stay in Dubai for 36 hours... with no hotel, as the city was fully booked for the Shopping Festival!

Anonymous said...

wow a whole festival dedicated to shopping..... No wonder there are more obese people than malnutrition

Anonymous said...

his because your kangaroo nearly vent to ze american bbq ?