No Staff, No Service: The Future of Flying Qantas?Last month Qantas announced a plan to close its airport service desks and sales counters, including the service counters in Qantas airport lounges.

The airline says that the removal of face-to-face contact points is designed to “enhance customer confidence in flying” during the pandemic. But if the recent experience of a Qantas Platinum member flying from Melbourne Airport is any indication, the reality is that customers could be left unable to find staff and without access to assistance at the airport.

SydneySara visited the Qantas Business Lounge at Melbourne Airport ahead of a Qantas flight last Sunday. The service desk in the lounge was unstaffed, according to SydneySara, and the lounge reception staff were unable to help with any aspect of the booking.

The service desk in the Qantas Business Lounge in Melbourne is now closed
The service desk in the Qantas Business Lounge in Melbourne is now closed

For example, the Qantas lounge staff refused to process an on-departure upgrade, saying this could only be done using the Qantas App. This contradicts the Qantas website, which currently says:

Platinum One, Platinum, Gold and  Qantas Club members  with a paid and confirmed ticket can request a domestic On Departure Upgrade Reward at domestic Australian Qantas Club lounges (except QantasLink lounges). Platinum and Platinum One Frequent Flyers can also request an upgrade in domestic Australian Business lounges.

This AFF member also says she saw at least six other customers in the lounge – mainly elderly flyers – lining up for assistance at the service desk. Eventually all of these people gave up and walked off, confused and dissatisfied, when they did not receive any service.

A Qantas flight departing Melbourne last Sunday was also cancelled while SydneySara was travelling. Not a single Qantas staff member was available to assist disrupted passengers with rebooking their flights.

SydneySara writes:

I can only hope that someone realises what a foolish move & epic folly this short sighted decision represents. This is not what I expect as P from a full service airline. Even regardless of status, passengers deserve better.

A Qantas spokesperson told Australian Frequent Flyer that SydneySara‘s experience in Melbourne last weekend is “not reflective of the new processes which are expected to be progressively rolled out in the first half of 2021”.

“We apologise if the customer did not get the support they needed to check in at the lounge in this instance,” the Qantas spokesperson said.

Qantas says it plans to redeploy staff that have been removed from the airport service desks and sales counters, so that more roaming staff members are available at the airport to assist customers requiring time-sensitive assistance. By centralising the way it manages disruptions, Qantas believes its ability to prioritise its most valued customers will be improved.

Qantas also said it plans to upgrade its technology so that customers eligible for upgrades receive push notifications on their smartphones.

Although Qantas is closing lounge service desks, the airline doesn’t believe this will reduce the level of support available to frequent flyers. Qantas points out that it will still have customer service staff in its lounges. But based on SydneySara‘s recent experience in the Melbourne Business Lounge, it sounds like the remaining lounge staff are only able to provide limited assistance  – at least for now.

If Qantas only plans to roll out the promised improvements to its technology and airport customer service from next year, it does make you wonder why its airport and lounge service desks are already closed. What are passengers supposed to do now?

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: First experience in QF J lounge with no service desk


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]