It was another media release frenzy in Australia this week with several announcements by British Airways, Qantas and Virgin Australia. Here’s a summary by carrier:
Travelers from London currently have two options to fly British Airways to Sydney, namely via Singapore or Bangkok with continuing service to Australia. Beginning next March the carrier will discontinue the Bangkok-Sydney flight, where instead passengers will pick up a Qantas flight to continue on to Sydney. Not a surprising move in my opinion with Qantas last week having announced their own discontinuation of Bangkok-London service. The story picked up by most of the Australian news outlets came from the Australian Associated Press (AAP), who painted an overly dire picture if you only read the headline and first sentence: “British Airways to slash Australia flights: British Airways is to slash its number of flights to Australia by half, a UK newspaper reports.” Yes, true by all accounts as half of two is one, but it’s overly dramatic, wouldn’t you say?
- Revealing a bit more about the new carrier Qantas will launch in Asia announced last week, CEO Alan Joyce plans to model their service and A320 fleet similar to what British Airways has done with their A318s that fly from London City airport to New York’s JFK. It will feature lie-flat beds in Business Class superior to the carrier’s first class A380 beds. Unlike the LCY-JFK service, though, Qantas will include an economy class cabin, albeit also an improvement from what’s seen on their A380s.
- The same day as the above, shares of the carrier dropped to equal a record low as unions seek a “no-confidence vote” against Joyce and the board in an upcoming October meeting. Pilots and engineers need the support of only 100 shareholders to get the motion on the agenda. Their main grievance: the recently announced strategic direction that will see 1,000 jobs eliminated.
- Not far off the mark from above, Qantas engineers were to press ahead with planned one-hour strikes every day up until about Christmas as of this posting. The union has authorized workers in rotating cities to stop working an hour each day, unless the carrier pays them overtime rates for that hour. Qantas, understandably, is refusing the overtime pay part, but still needs to find a way to get back to the table to discuss the long-running disputes between sides. The same goes for the union, mind you, and I find the “we won’t strike if you pay us overtime that hour” completely childish.
- The Australian government has given the green light for an enhanced alliance between Qantas and American Airlines that would further enable the carriers to work more closely in scheduling, pricing, revenue management and other areas. Approval from New Zealand and the United States is still pending.
- Qantas reported a total fiscal year net profit of AU$250 million ($263 million) for the period ending June 30, 2011, slightly doubling last year’s amount of AU$112 million. The ailing international arm, however, posted a AU$200 million loss and the company said it couldn’t provide a forward looking forecast for the next year due to its restructuring and uncertain economic conditions. I’m thinking the unions might not have too hard a time getting that no-confidence vote.
- The carrier launched an improved Velocity frequent flyer program, including the ability to pool points and status within a member’s family, adding a Platinum level with top-tier benefits, better upgrade perks, standby privileges, and much more. They’re also luring business away from other carriers by offering a limited time tier-to-tier status match. Australian residency (or possibly just address) is required, otherwise I would have requested a Platinum match to my United 1K status. I do know several United 1Ks in Australia, however, who will certainly take them up on the offer given their continuous inability to redeem Systemwide upgrades with United.
- Virgin Australia will codeshare with Virgin Atlantic on their Sydney to Hong Kong flights beginning next year. The Atlantic arm has been serving Sydney for seven years and the flight leaves daily at 2:25pm operated with an Airbus A340-600 featuring Upper Class, Premium Economy and Economy cabins.
- Opposite of Qantas, Virgin Australia reported a total full year net loss of AU$67.8 million, but international operations on V Australia saw a AU$22.4 million net profit. To be fair, that’s really an apples to oranges comparison against Qantas given their radically different international route structures. The carrier is looking to drastically improve on the domestic loss of AU$40.8 million having rebranded from Virgin Blue, added domestic business class and lounges, and improved the frequent flyer program.