Qantas has announced massive changes to its international route structure, altering some key destinations and revamping its aircraft. While all the details aren't clear yet and there's some major issues to be resolved, here are Road Worrier's initial thoughts on the changes.
Picture by Christopher Neugebauer
As regular readers will know, I'm a long-term Qantas frequent flyer, so any changes to its overall plans are going to impact on me fairly directly. Qantas' own spin on the changes is on its Qantas Answers site. A different take on its plans to change employment conditions for pilots and other staff can be found on the Qantas Pilots site. Making the changes Qantas has announced will require those not-inconsiderable issues to be resolved, and any plan that involves getting rid of 1,000 staff may impact on services in ways that aren't yet apparent.
But assuming that the broad-brush alterations go through, here are the changes I can see having a positive effect on my own travel plans. This is definitely a personal take, based on my own Europe and America-centric travel plans and my fairly elevated Qantas flyer status. Casual economy passengers would doubtless have a very different take, but might well be travelling with someone else anyway (Qantas' own calculation is that it only has 18% of the market for passengers leaving Australia).
All Europe flights routed through Singapore. Qantas will continue flying to Hong Kong and Bangkok, but will no longer fly continuing services from there to London from April 2012. Singapore will be its main pass-through airport, which suits me just fine. Singapore is a better organised and equipped airport with much better lounges and more efficient staff. It also makes a better break in the journey for sleep; you can stay awake on the Australia-Singapore leg, sleep on the Singapore-London (or Frankfurt) leg, and wake up fairly well aligned to European time.
New lounges in Singapore, Hong Kong and Los Angeles. Having said that the Singapore lounge suits me fine, I've got no objection to it coming into line with the Marc Newson-designed First lounges in Sydney and Melbourne. Even better is the news that the Los Angeles lounges will be upgraded, and around three times the size of the current one. I've never been in the LA lounge and not felt majorly crowded, so any expansion is welcome.
A380 entertainment systems on 747s. I've long been a fan of the on-board entertainment system for the A380, so seeing its enhanced flexibility on 747 aircraft will definitely be welcome. A total of nine 747s are being upgraded right now, with the first to roll out within three months, and 21 due to be updated before June 2014.
Expanding next-generation check-in internationally. Given my current Platinum status, I never spend much time hanging out in international check-in now. However, I've become very accustomed to automated check-in for domestic flights, and I could definitely see myself using it internationally as well. New Zealand is the first country that will see the change.
Additional European gateway cities through Malaysian Airlines. Flying Qantas to Europe generally means flying to London or Frankfurt, which can be fiddly if your ultimate destination is elsewhere on the continent. Offering flights to Rome, Istanbul and Amsterdam could improve flexibility, though if I'm realistic I rarely pass up the opportunity to visit London even when it's not the most convenient option.
What's your take on the "new" Qantas? Tell us in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman has a constantly oscillating collection of frequent flyer points. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.