Qantas released a dizzying amount of teasers yesterday with regard to restructuring their ailing international operation, as well as planned improvements to their Boeing 747 fleet, frequent flyer program and lounge offerings. The carrier held an official “A New Spirit” briefing where the below items were announced, many of which were more fully analyzed and reviewed by the fine journalists at Australian Business Traveler.
- Qantas-branded flying changes: The carrier will continue to fly from Sydney to Bangkok and Hong Kong, but will no longer continue those legs to reach London leaving the Sydney-Singapore-London route as the only way to travel to Heathrow on the Red Kangaroo. Passengers disembarking in Bangkok and Hong Kong will instead feed into partner British Airways’ flight offerings. In South America, Qantas will serve Santiago where oneworld partner LAN is based, instead of the existing service to Buenos Aires. As a result of the route changes and retirement of aging aircraft, the carrier will be eliminating 1,000 jobs.
- New Airline #1 – Jetstar Japan: In partnership with Japan Airlines and Mitsubishi, Qantas will break into the Japanese low cost carrier arena operating Airbus A320 aircraft. Based out of Tokyo’s Narita and Osaka’s Kansai airports, Qantas passengers will then be able to continue travel to “famous ski fields or cultural centers.” Additional expansion is mentioned with possible further bases at Sapporo, Fukuoka and Okinawa.
- New Airline #2 – (unnamed) Premium Asian airline: Qantas will launch a new premium carrier based in Asia, likely in Singapore or Malaysia, and what I’m unclear on here is the route offering proposed. Will this be an intra-Asia market carrier or will it directly compete with Qantas, for example, flying international routes including those originating in Australia? In the half-dozen articles I’ve read so far I can’t seem to find an answer.
- Boeing 747 Cabin Improvements: Qantas will be overhauling their 747 fleet to bring equal comfort and entertainment options to the long-haul Boeing widebody as those found on their flagship Airbus A380s. Business class will eventually feature the fully flat Skybeds along with 1,000 channels of on-demand entertainment. Separately, Qantas announced they would defer the delivery of their final eight A380s from a 2014 delivery to somewhere between 2018 to 2021.
- Enhanced Airline Partnerships: Besides London, the majority of Qantas passengers have only been able to travel to points in Europe from Frankfurt, but an enhanced agreement with Malaysia Airlines, should they be included in the oneworld alliance, would allow additional opportunities for more direct routes from their hub in Kuala Lumpur, including Istanbul, Rome and Amsterdam. Qantas is apparently courting their entry into the alliance, which would further aid in their European travel demand.
- Frequent Flyer Program: A new uber elite level is planned where members earning at least 3,600 status credits each year will be “Platinum One.” Benefits have yet to be officially announced, but CEO Alan Joyce has admitted they would be those “money can’t buy,” including opportunities to fly in a Qantas flight simulator. Aiming to be basically equivalent to those fictitious Ryan Bingham had in the movie “Up In The Air,” this new status level’s benefits would equate to those seen here in the U.S. with American’s Concierge Key and United’s Global Services.
- Lounge Offerings: New Marc Newson-designed First Class lounges will be appearing in Los Angeles, Singapore and Hong Kong. If they’re anything like the First Class lounge in Sydney, these will be something truly special and highly rewarding for premier customers. I’m looking forward to their introduction and hope to review them on my blog.
One article summarizing the changes in the Sydney Morning Herald says the Canberra government will be scrutinizing these new airlines to ensure Australian jobs aren’t taken offshore. The elimination of the 1,000 jobs due to routing changes is already significant, so politicians will be certain to zero in to ensure further Aussie job losses won’t occur. The original date for Qantas’ international restructuring announcement was to be for August 24th, but this “A New Spirit” was definitely it. I’m looking forward to the full details, as these were definitely the teaser introductions likely to satisfy investors and the flying public for the time being. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m pretty keen on the Australian market given my frequency of travel there along with desiring permanent residency.