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QANTAS: International WiFi, App improvements and automatic COVID refunds. About time.

QANTAS: International WiFi, App improvements and automatic COVID refunds. About time.

As part of their most recent financial reporting, Qantas has released information about a number of digital improvements. Everything from international WiFi and improvements to its phone app, to automated refunds that patrons can receive without even asking. Well, that’s a turnaround. What happened to the ‘we can’t do that because people might have changed their credit card’ as a reason not to do this before?

International WiFi Rolloout

Qantas has been a bit of a laggard when it comes to rolling out WiFi on international routes. Having been quite the innovator on free WiFi on domestic routes, this tardiness seems odd. Qantas has argued, that for many of its routes, the technology available – that is systems, software and satellites, has just not been available, and there is some truth to this. I think it is reasonable for Qantas to want to provide similar WiFi speeds as it does on domestic flights, on international flights.

Qantas delayed the introduction of international WiFi until global satellite technology caught up, enabling them to offer a product that would allow all passengers to be connected on a flight while still providing reasonable speed/bandwidth. Viasat is to provide such a solution, and the fleet of A330s, B787 and A380s will be progressively retrofitted to this next-generation technology.

a screenshot of a computer

So when will this all happen? Not tomorrow, unfortunately. You will need to wait close to another year, that is, 2025 or as Qantas deceptively puts it ‘the end of calendar year’.

This is a big process requiring modifications to most aircraft which will be timed with their current heavy maintenance schedule starting in March 2024 for the A330-200LRs and running to the end of the year, just in time for the launch of a new satellite for South East Asia.

Proof on delivery

Don’t hold your breath for the other aircraft B787, A380 and A330-300s – they will not start the installation process until 2025. Although this is far in the future, given the demand for slots at airline maintenance facilities currently this is not unreasonable.

New aircraft arriving such as the Airbus A350s and B787s will come with the new WiFi capability installed.

For the Jetstar fleet, you will need to be even more patient. 2026 is the earliest date as part of the Boeing 787 cabin refresh.

a chair in front of a counter
The Qantas website is like its First Lounge in Auckland – crusty and dated [Seat 2B/2PAXfly]

Qantas and Jetstar website and app – improvements

The Qantas apps have long been a disappointment along with the website. Neither has had the capabilities that other airlines – particularly in the USA have exhibited. Well, it looks like there are the beginnings of a catch-up, although still a long way to go.

Recently Qantas has added the capability of tracking bags at some points of the journey. There will be improvements to this plus improved flight tracking, status updates – especially handy during disruptions, and updates on customer enquiries – to quote their old safety video ‘Whatever that means?’.

Improvements to the website

On the website Qantas is promising ‘A complete overhaul of from mid-2024, making it significantly faster and easier to use.’ Hallelujah! Can I get an A-men in here?’ About bloody time. The website has been stuck in the world of dial-up speeds of operation for far too long.

My cynical side says I will wait until I see it. The proof will be in the pudding!

a hand sanitizer and a phone on a desk
Qantas Lounge during COVID [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

Automated COVID refunds

About time. Qantas found every reason in the book to not do this under Alan Joyce. Vanessa Hudson was CFO during the same period, so she doesn’t get off scot-free either.

Qantas is going to trial pro-active refunds, so you won’t have to apply to get one any more. Funds will be returned to your payment method – usually a credit card. It is not without some complexity where credit cards are no longer valid:

‘In practical terms, customers will receive an email from Qantas if the value of their COVID credit has been successfully refunded through this trial. Qantas will never ask customers to email details of their bank account, credit card, PIN or passwords, and reminds them to be conscious of attempted scams.’

Qantas Media Release

With 25% of COVID credits still outstanding Qantas is holding at a total of just shy of One Billion dollars that is owed to its customers.

an airplane on the tarmac
Qantas A380 bound for Singapore viewed from the Qantas Melbourne First lounge. [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

2PAXfly Takeout

The Qantas statement also notes a 10% fall in airfare prices due to falling demand and increased competition. It also notes that some costs like security and CPI have driven up prices. What it is silent on is the drip in fuel prices that is expected to continue for at least the rest of the year. Some of that 10% was because of former increases in fuel costs.

Qantas, although having reduced its profit by over 12% is still making a health billion plus profit, and is buying back AU$400 million worth of shares. So, I think there is still room for more downward pressure on airfares in the next 12 months.

I commend Qantas for the WiFi and other digital improvements, especially to the website and app. However, I want to see those improvements before I congratulate Vanessa.

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