QANTAS: Customer-facing tech fails. Boy, did I have a day of delays, cancellations and re-assignments.
I recently wrote a post about the need for Qantas to invest heavily in its customer-facing tech, since the current experience is pretty dire, both on the app and on the website.
I was mildly chided by a reader ‘PH’ via email over not mentioning the improvements in the Qantas domestic check-in kiosks. In my defence, I explained to PH that I had such a bad time with the old Kiosks that I had avoided using the new ones, preferring to use the domestic service desk, which I am entitled to do as a Qantas Platinum Frequent Flyer.
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Improved customer-facing technology
PH also pointed out the IT improvements in check-in processes and ‘load consolidation’. You know, the reallocation of passengers to seats and flights when things go wrong due to flight disruptions, cancellations, and delays, is also much improved on the Qantas App. Now when your flight gets cancelled, you get re-allocated semi-automatically to another flight and receive a text message to that effect.
I had to admit to the reader – PH that I had overlooked this aspect and possibly done Qantas a disservice. I thought that was important to acknowledge given the rampant Qantas bashing going on at the moment.
In the event of an operational disruption such as a cancellation, affected customers can be moved to available services in Amadeus’ CM, which reflects immediately in customers digital boarding passes, and the qantas app. There is no need for an entire flight of passengers to queue at the service desk to obtain new boarding passes. There is also often no need to call the contact centre to make changes to your booking, as you can select alternative flights directly within the app, or manage your booking at qantas.com.
This fact is often taken for granted – but I have personally experienced other carriers handling cancellations by way of a 200 person deep queue at the gate to get your new boarding pass.PH (2PAXfly reader0
Disruption processes fail
Well today, I take back my apology (or at least heavily qualify it), and I raise it with a further complaint.
Mid last week, I was booked on a flight between Adelaide to Sydney, via Melbourne.
Why not book a direct flight, I hear you say? Well, because I was trying to maximise status credits at the lowest cost. I was doubling my status credits for far less than double the price, booked during the double status credits promotion. That’s why.
I knew my connection could be tight, but at around 90 minutes, I thought it would work. And with the two flights on the one booking and PNR number, Qantas would re-allocate me to a different flight if things went pear-shaped. So, all good.
My flight QF682 out of Adelaide was initially put back by a half hour from 12:05 to 12:35pm, and I received a text message to that effect as my uber pulled up at the airport at 10:35. I proceeded through security, and headed to the Qantas Business Lounge to check-in. The agent there confirmed the delay, but told me that I still had a 50 minute transfer in Melbourne, so not to panic, yet!
I jokingly said ‘let’s trust the algorithm!’. Words I would begin to regret.
Above, you can see the second text message saying that they were monitoring my connecting flight QF454, and that they will notify me if needed.
Trust the system.
I then received a succession of text messages. At 11:53, another warning that things had changed for my 12:05 flight (QF454). Although not specified in the text, that turned out to be another half-hour delay.
But then, having gone to the gate at the allocated time (when will I learn not to leave the lounge until the flight is announced!). The boarding time arrived and passed me by. Some people with disabilities were allowed to board early, so that gave me hope. We boarded about 5 or 10 minutes late, so I thought all was good.
I’m a seasoned flyer and had a flexible schedule, so I wasn’t worried. The flight crew acknowledged that some passengers had tight connections, and that transfer and connection advice would be given closer to landing.
Sure enough, closer to landing, we are told that passengers transferring to the Hobart flight, should head to Gate 23, and that passengers travelling onward to Sydney (ME!) on flight QF454 should refresh their app, or go to the Service Desk opposite Gate 1. So that’s what I did.
Business later, or Economy seat now?
The very competent and friendly assistant at the service desk told me he could offer me a seat on the 5pm flight on an A330 in Business – which I quickly accepted. That’s a 2-hour wait in the lounge with free drinks and food, and the chance to travel in business on a normally internationally scheduled A330 with fully reclining seats!
He also offered to accommodate me on an earlier flight, but he would have to seat me in economy, which I declined.
Other than a wish to be home expediently, I had no urgent reason to travel, so I was quite happy with the new flight two hours hence. Time to have a few drinks in the very nice Melbourne Qantas Business Lounge, and to get a little work done.
(what is it with the older gentlemen who insist on speaking on their phones held about two feet away from their mouths and conversing with people on speaker phone?)
What to believe: Text or Ticket
Now, bear with me, cos this gets confusing. I know. because I was there.
I settled into the lounge with a drink, and my computer, and then I checked my phone.
I had two cryptic messages. One told me that my QF468 flight from Melbourne at 16:45 was cancelled. Good to know, but I didn’t know I was even booked on this flight. No text message about that (that’s why I have included the message about the Adelaide flight above, so you can see there was no intervening text message.)
The next text message told me that I had been rebooked on QF474 flight leaving at 17:30? Interesting since that was not a flight I knew I was even booked on.
Trust the humans
I headed off to the entrance of the club to seek advice from a Qantas staff member (the service desk inside the Lounge was unattended). She checked everything, effectively saying to trust that paper ticket, as the flight was all good, unless they weren’t telling her something.
That wasn’t the end of things. I continued to get text messages about QF474:
Two more in fact. After telling me I had been rebooked on QF474, it told me that it had changed and then that they had rebooked me on the same flight again. All the while, I was holding on to my physical boarding pass for QF 470 at 17:00.
Flight QF470 Melbourne to Sydney
Resisting the temptation to re-check with staff every time I got a new text, I settled into the lounge.
I had a great flight, with fantastically good service from all the cabin staff. It was an extremely comfortable seat. Unfortunately, no WiFi given that this was an aircraft normally scheduled on international routes. I arrived safe and sound in Sydney, and was home by 7:30 pm.
While in the cab on the way home, I checked my messages again. This final one was waiting for me:
… and I had already landed in Sydney.
Let me preface my closing remarks by saying that both Melbourne and Sydney were suffering really bad weather. Weather that flooded parts of Melbourne and caused havoc at both airports. So, Qantas systems were stretched. Keep that in mind.
The problem with the continually changing and incorrect text messages I received is that they corrode my trust in the Qantas customer-facing technology. They make me doubt the accuracy and veracity of the information they contain.
Is the flight delayed? Is the flight cancelled? Have I been reassigned successfully to another flight? Do I believe what’s on my phone, or the text messages, or the boarding pass in my hand?
Remember at no stage in this process did I get a text confirmation that I was actually on flight QF470. You know, the flight I really travelled on. And the system could not register that I was on that flight. It continued to send me information about a flight that it had assigned me to, but I never flew on.
The Qantas App did reflect the flight I actually travelled on. And, it did that correctly, the trail of cancelled and delayed flights my booking cascaded through. What did not represent reality was the text messages I received.
So, I take back my apology for criticising the neanderthal nature of Qantas IT and customer facing technology. It might be getting better, as my correspondant PH says, but it still has a long way to go.