Qantas is Good and Everyone Else is Bad?

I was perusing Twitter this morning and stumbled upon an article on the Harvard Business Review Blog in regards to the author’s experience on Qantas compared to US domestic carriers.

Joshua Gans writes about his experience flying within Australia on Qantas where

“When you travel within Australia, you start with a terminal with no queues. Yes, no queues at 8 am Monday morning, the busiest time of the week. There are ample check-in terminals and a large number of bag-drop stations. Security is a dream. There are no queues there either. You have to remove laptops from bags, but that’s it — no shoe or belt removal. It took all of five seconds. And as I looked around, I couldn’t even find provision for queues, that is, the ropes and barriers that adorn U.S. terminals.”

He concludes with

But the Qantas experience shows that airlines can do more and can do so while still making a profit. The U.S. airlines have turned into fortresses against continuing customer complaints and competitive forces have failed to bring about innovation and improvements. To be sure, there are bright lights such as Virgin and JetBlue, but the major airlines — United, American, and Delta — do not appear to feel the pressure.

Now there are certainly operational inefficiencies with the way that airports process the security queues in the US and all companies could do a better job of being more customer friendly. It seems a little strange though to draw his conclusion based on one experience. How do they handle massive amounts of people during Christmas? Is it really possible to load a large Airbus in 20 minutes before departure? Is Bircher muesli the key to customer satisfaction? 🙂

For those of you who have flown Qantas domestically in Australia – how does it stack up to the US experience?


  1. Compared to the US experience most of the airlines do a far better job, there are many countries have a far bigger threat but nowhere have i seen it that bad on airports. Qantas does a really good job on it’s domestic front. For that matter Changi airport in Singapore is a breeze it rarely takes more than 15 mins to collect your baggage and head out of the airport.

  2. In short, Qantas domestically in Australia shits all over US carriers. The terminals and security and lounges are a dream. And in business class on a one hour flight you get a full meal and magnificent service. I guess the difference in catering to 23 million people versus 300 million in the US.

  3. Yes, they really do board a large Airbus in less than 20 minutes. It’s because hardly anyone carries on anything larger than a purse or briefcase. No jockeying for overhead space or fighting with 50 lb carry-ons; everyone simply finds their assigned seat, slides into it, and puts their personal item at their feet. I was astonished.

    I did encounter queues in the airport, but they moved very quickly. Security was great; I was selected for extra screening, but they couldn’t have been nicer about it (no rudeness or power trips). On board, I found Qantas’ staff and in-flight service (even in coach) to be WAY better than any US experience I’ve ever had.

  4. Yep. Australian domestic passengers don’t know how good they have it; yet the media over here are on a constant beat up of QF. Flying Qantas and now Virgin Australia is just a league above anything I’ve experienced in the US (on AA) and Europe (BA, Easyjet etc etc). I feel lucky.

  5. Though most Australians throw QF under the bus, their domestic service within Oz is really quite good.

    Among other things, they offer meals on many flights, free drinks in Y at cocktail hour (on their CityFlyer services between the major cities), free lounge access for Sapphire and Emerald elites, and very light queues.

    They do have 3.5 things going in their favor when compared to carriers in the US. First, they operate a much simpler route system than the US. A significant chunk of their pax volume is between the major cities (SYD, MEL, BNE, CBR, ADL and PER), and a big chunk of this is point-to-point service, without connections. Second, they have less weather volatility than the US. While they don’t get a complete free pass on weather, they don’t face Chicago winters, etc. Third, the major city airports that they operate out of are privately owned and operated. Those airports compete for business (particularly international business), but are all very efficiently run. In general, management of the airports has a mutually beneficial relationship with the carriers that operate from the fields. The compares to government run airports in the US, which aren’t known for their commercial acumen or nimbleness. Fourth (this is the half point), they face far reduced competition than in the US. Virgin is there, as well as the on-and-off-again Tiger, and maybe one or two other odd-lots. (Jetstar is owned by QF, and principally operates on touristy routes.)

    QF domestically is a model that US carriers could aspire to.

  6. It’s not just australia and it’s not just airlines.

    Changing industries, try comparing the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo with the one in New York, an equally huge world of difference.

    Americans don’t do customer service. We are too busy telling everyone how “wonderful, special, centre of the universe” they are from the moment they can speak, that to serve others becomes anathema.

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