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QANTAS: What were you thinking? Social distancing now!

QANTAS: What were you thinking? Social distancing now!

Oh dear, your gold crown is getting a little tarnished according to the Traveller website today.

Qantas quality slipping

Qantas, which normally works as a very well oiled machine, with a superb PR department, has been faltering lately.

Firstly, it was Qantas boss Alan Joyce bagging out Virgin Australia as a badly run airline, and encouraging Qantas staff to communicate this to their local politicians to discourage a Virgin Australia bail-out by the government.

Then it was the Adelaide baggage handlers that tested positive for COVID-19 – could happen to anybody.

Next Qantas defended the exemption from 14-day quarantine they have for international and national flight crews crossing state and international borders saying there was no solid evidence that anyone has caught COVID-19 on one of their flights.

That kind of missed the point. It’s not about the crew or passengers catching the virus on the plane, its about passengers and crew bringing the virus into Australia or across state borders and passing it onto others. That’s what the compulsory quarantine is designed to mitigate. And that’s why Qantas or other airline crews should not be exempt.

a group of people standing in an airplane

Qantas fails at social distancing

And now in the next chapter of Qantas COVID-19 faux pas, it has neglected to socially distance its’s passengers on an intra-state flight into Brisbane. The flight looks nearly full, meaning no social distancing. I mean, even major retailers like Coles and Woolworths, not to mention my local suburban bakery can get this right.

On the last flight I had with Qantas, the aircraft was less than 30% full, so social distancing was the default, with virtually all middle seats free.

Now that the government is subsidising flights getting social distancing right is not important any more?

Qantas flip-flop

Apparently, in a reaction to the tweet above, Qantas has now affirmed its dedication to social distancing and will implement the practice by blocking the middle seat. Given current pricing for seats – for example, AU$210 Sydney to Melbourne one-way, it looks to me like they are already pricing in that 30% of empty middle seats.

a plane with seats and purple walls

Other Airlines

Virgin Australia has already adopted the practice, as have American airlines like Delta, Alaska and even no-frills carrier, Spirit. American Airlines, is blocking off half its middle seats, and JetBlue, is leaving about 30% of its seats free, which is much the same as blocking the middle seat.

Some airlines are making exceptions for family groups travelling together. A very practical approach.

people boarding an airplane

2PAXfly Takeout

I have a huge amount of sympathy for airlines at the moment. They have had the carpet pulled out from under them during this pandemic, and it’s difficult for them to operate any flights and make money. On the other hand, governments are in the main performing financial summersaults to support them. Australia is providing concessions on landing and other government fees, underwriting a ‘minimum network’ of capital city and regional centre flights and funding regional carriers.

Given that level of support – enough that Qantas and Virgin can’t lose on the cost of their domestic flights, the least they can do is implement government policy on social distancing, as best they can.

Qantas, I have to mark this as a fail. It shouldn’t have taken a post on social media for you to adopt a sensible ‘middle seat free’ policy.

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