Opinion

The Qantas apology: Good PR or an over-reaction that will frighten flyers?

Like, I imagine, everybody on the Qantas frequent flyer database, I received this email from CEO Alan Joyce on Friday:  

I must confess though, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.

On the one hand, it’s great customer service for the boss to acknowledge problems and offer reassurance (although in that case it may have been about three days late coming).

But on the other, I was blissfully unaffected by the Qantas problems, not having flown over Easter.

Clearly those who were affected by the delays deserve an apology, but I wonder whether this email to the whole database, rather than just to those who were affected, is something of an over-reaction?

I only vaguely remember a news story about a Qantas plane turning back because of a cracked windscreen or something along those lines. But I’d struggle to recall the detail – and I’m a news junky.

I wonder if, as a result of being at the centre of the problems and no doubt on call to the media over the holidays, the Qantas PR and marketing team felt that this was a bigger story to the general public than it actually was? I suspect that by the time the email arrived on Friday, those who were unaffected had already virtually forgotten about it.

But as a result of the email, I clicked on the link offered to read all about four separate delays. Anda reassurance about safety worries – which had never even entered my mind until they brought it up.

Take the two engine surge incidents. All B747s have four engines and can fly safely and normally on three engines. So this was a question of performance, not of safety. We are working with the engine manufacturer Rolls Royce to ensure that this problem is eliminated from our B747 fleet as soon as possible.

You might have seen TV images of the A380 landing at Sydney Airport and apparent sparks flying. In fact, the aircraft landed normally, but during that landing two of the A380’s 20 tyres were damaged. At no stage was the safety of the aircraft compromised.

And, it is not unusual for aircraft window panes to experience chipping and cracking. Aircraft window panes typically consist of three layers. In this particular instance one of the layers on one of the cockpit window panes was perceived to be developing a small crack, and, as a precaution, that window pane was changed once the aircraft landed.

Blimey, your A380 lost two tyres and created a shower of sparks, you say? And you’re trying to fix a problem “as soon as possible” in your fleet of 747s where the engines keep surging? Let me know when you’ve done that then, will you? And it’s not unusual for windows to crack, you say?

Yikes… if I wasn’t a nervous flyer before, I am now. Thaks for letting me know.

What do you reckon? Am I being too harsh? Proactive PR or an over-the-top response?

Tim Burrowes

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