Qantas Priority Boarding Doesn’t Work

Qantas Priority Boarding Doesn't WorkPriority boarding is a published Qantas benefit for eligible passengers. Qantas advertises that priority boarding will be available to Business class passengers and Gold, Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers on Qantas flights. Unfortunately, this benefit is delivered so rarely that Qantas priority boarding has become a running joke on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum.

The implementation of a priority aircraft boarding queue is a Oneworld alliance standard. All Oneworld airlines are required to offer the perk to frequent flyers with Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald status, which is equivalent to Qantas Gold and Platinum. But, while Qantas has the appropriate signage, the priority boarding system is rarely actually used for domestic flights. It’s a common source of frustration for Qantas’ frequent flyers.

Priority boarding on Virgin Australia works consistently well. When boarding Virgin flights, all passengers in the priority boarding queue are processed before anyone in the general boarding queue. If a passenger enters the priority boarding queue later in the boarding process, the staff member will pause the general queue and call them forward immediately. Virgin also actively polices the priority boarding lane; ineligible passengers are turned away.

It’s a small thing, but Virgin’s frequent flyers appreciate this consistency. It means eligible passengers can board any time at their leisure, and gives them first access to the overhead locker space.

Qantas neither polices the priority boarding queue, nor does it actually board the “premium” lane first. Both the priority and general boarding queues are processed simultaneously.

One member’s Qantas experience last weekend, however, made a mockery of the whole system. A passenger was actually refused boarding via the empty general boarding queue because they were eligible for “priority” boarding.

As they announced boarding commencement, I was about the 5th person in the PB queue, and the QF lady started scanning pax and we started advancing. There was a young QF bloke manning the NPB scanner. He called out for NPB’s to his lane, as there were none yet. The gentleman in front of me in the PB queue did exactly what I would have, he stepped sidewards in front of the waiting QF bloke and presented his boarding pass (the non-PB’s were still about 10m away, not yet arriving).

Not only did the QF bloke not scan him in, he steadfastly refused to even look at him. The poor pax just stood there, arm outstretched, ignored. This went on for several very excruciating and embarrassing seconds. The QF lad, still without looking at the pax, said in a loud and irritated voice “This is the queue for NON-priority boarding”.

AFF is full of similar complaints about Qantas priority boarding. Unfortunately, it seems nobody at Qantas is actually making sure this published Business class & status benefit is honoured.

Departing Canberra last year there was a new FA doing boarding. The more ‘experienced’ FA mentioned to the new FA that “we’re meant to board priority first but I don’t bother” so it’s just lack of care by the staff and lack of enforcement by senior staff

Admittedly, this is very much a first-world problem. But if Qantas is not going to consistently deliver on its promise of priority boarding, it should not advertise it.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Qantas priority boarding – crippled by Communists?


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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]