Qantas will close its airport service desks and sales counters, and reduce staffing levels at baggage services desks, resulting in the loss of around 100 jobs. The move will help Qantas to further cut costs, but frequent flyers are concerned this will lead to service reductions and chaos when there are flight disruptions.
As part of the changes, Qantas will remove dedicated airport service desks – including in Qantas Club lounges. Customers will instead be encouraged to “self-service” their bookings using airport kiosks, the Qantas website or the Qantas App. However, Qantas said in an internal memo to staff that it “will have a team available at the airport to support time sensitive flight management and exceptions”.
Qantas says that sales desks too are no longer required at airports because cash payments are no longer accepted. In future, customers will similarly be instructed to purchase tickets and ancillaries on the Qantas website or to contact the call centre for urgent queries.
But, as anyone that’s spent time dealing with the Qantas call centre knows, there are serious problems with the service provided. Wait times routinely extend into the hours, the information provided by offshore call centre agents in the Philippines or South Africa is frequently wrong, and staff at these call centres aren’t always empowered to help customers properly. Unless significant investment and radical changes are made to the Qantas call centres, this is not a satisfactory solution for customers with urgent enquiries!
If customers need to pay for excess baggage or other ancillaries at the airport, they’ll soon be told to use a self-service kiosk. But in the future, Qantas says it also intends to equip airport customer service representatives with mobile payment devices for this purpose.
Finally, the airline plans to “adjust the coverage times” of its baggage services counters at Australian airports. If you’re flying during an off-peak time like Saturday evening, and Qantas loses your bag, this means there will no longer be anybody at the airport to help you. Qantas says it is investing in technology to “assist in tracking baggage and provide self-service recovery options for customers”, although this technology is not yet in place.
Airport check-in counters will continue to be staffed.
Qantas is currently consulting with unions regarding the changes, which would be implemented in the first half of 2021. Unions are not happy with the proposal, warning it would create chaos during disruptions such as severe weather events and that it would make Qantas “no better than Jetstar”.
But Qantas says it’s just responding to customer feedback. (We’re not sure which, if any, customers the company actually spoke to.) The staff memo claims that customers were starting to prefer contactless solutions before the pandemic, with COVID-19 accelerating this trend. It added that this change would “enhance customer confidence in flying”.
The vast majority of Qantas customers would disagree with this claim. At the time of writing, the AFF thread on this topic is already five pages long and not a single AFF member supports the proposal. Most frequent flyers are outraged, and they question whether anyone involved in making this decision has ever actually tried calling the Qantas contact centre as a Bronze member or dealing with a complex flight disruption using the Qantas App.
One of the main reasons for using an airport service desk is to solve urgent problems such as flight delays, cancellations, misconnections and other disruptions. The counters are particularly important during irregular operations. Unless Qantas drastically improves self-service options, this is just going to create problems for anyone that doesn’t have access to the VIP Service Team as a Platinum One or Chairman’s Lounge member (i.e. the vast majority of customers).
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Qantas to shut airport service desks, force customers onto self-service
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