Wednesday, 24 February 2016

With record profits, Qantas gives back to passengers with new lounge and free domestic wifi

Profits up, and buyback offer
Qantas has been through a few years of horror, even going cap-in-hand to government for a loan guarantee.  After a program of rather drastic cost cutting and staff retrenchments which even saw them remove the little sprig of flowers from the toilet vases on domestic flights, Qantas has returned to profit. Partly helped by the plunge in international fuel prices, Qantas recorded a 234% profit climb this half year to $688 million., The company's share price has roughly tripled since a low in 2014 and the present day, (Damn! I wish I had invested in December 2013).

Instead of a dividend for shareholders, it is offering $500million worth of share buy-backs, which should push up the price of existing shares.

The major performer has been the international division, which has raised profit about 360%.

So what does this mean for Qantas customers?
Well it almost certainly doesn't mean any cut in fares. What it does mean is a bit of spending on infrastructure by Qantas, and that will start with a new Club Lounge in London.
Secondly, it means some added amenity for domestic passengers, with the provision of free, yes, apparently free wifi on domestic flights care of the new satellites launched care of the National Broadband Network.

New Heathrow Club Lounge
It will be in Terminal three with a capacity of roughly 230 people, but won't be open until early 2017 - so a year away. You can expect a development of the same look and feel as seen in the new Singapore, Hong Kong, LA and Perth lounges.


Qantas rendering of the new Heathrow Terminal 3 split level Qantas Club.


It will be the usual Neil Perry/Rockpool curated cocktails, menu and dining experience with the usual business, children and bathroom/shower facilities.

Eligibility
All the usual suspects (Qantas Club members, Business and First passengers, Platinum and Gold Qantas Frequent Flyers, and eligible passengers travelling on a partner airline with a QF code. No One World status passengers are mentioned - but it would be strange if they were excluded as this is not true of any other Qantas lounge.

Free Domestic WiFi - at last!
This has been an annoying omission from the Qantas domestic product. Qantas are partnering with ViaSat and using the NBN network to provide 737 aircraft retrofitted with wi-fi equipment, with eventual rollout to the fleet of A330's and B737's. Again this we are a year away from the intended first installation. The promise is to have 'download speeds in the air similar to what they're used to on the ground' according to CEO Alan Joyce. I will believe that when I experience it!

The press release also promises that this will:
 '. . . open up a lot of potential to improve in-flight entertainment . . .'
 - which is suitably vague. The release also promises that Qantas is:
 ' . . . examining options for high-speed wi-fi across its international and regional fleet.' 
I hope they are, otherwise their product will be hopelessly behind Qantas's American, middle east airlines and other competitors.

Oh - and did I mention that it will be free? Forgive my cynicism, but I bet it will be like some hotel chains - free for slow speed or a limited download, and paid, for higher speeds, or higher downloads. I welcome being proved wrong.

Fun Fact - ViaSat is the company that American Airlines is ditching Gogo for (lawsuit was pending), to supply satellite wi-fi.

2Pax Wisdom
Good to see Qantas move into profit, and the slash and burn approach to staffing and passenger amenities stop. The new lounge at Heathrow will give a great One World option over the unremarkable BA lounge, and will add to the choice of American Airlines or Cathay Pacific lounges. Wi-fi - thank goodness and about time. Looks like we might get NBN in the air before I get it at my house in Sydney!

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