Qantas maps out digital-led future, with dedicated sales and service desks set to go

Huntley Mitchell

Huntley Mitchell

Qantas has announced upgrades to its technology to improve customers’ ability to manage their journey online and ultimately speed up the check-in process.

The changes will see customers use digital platforms for most transactions, rather than Qantas customer service team members doing these at the airport.

The changes to the Qantas website and app, which are being rolled out from January 2021, mean customers will have greater choice over their seat allocation, can link multiple bookings so they can choose to sit together, can access upgrades (including points upgrades for frequent flyers), and can cancel check-ins (this ability was already enabled during COVID-19).

Qantas customers will continue to be able to use the airline’s site and app to move flights in the event of a disruption, as well as purchase excess baggage and other ancillary items.

As a result of these tech upgrades, dedicated Qantas sales and service desks will be phased out in the first half 2021.

The airline said some of these employees will move from behind desks to join other employees assisting customers throughout the check-in area, and will have mobile payment devices to process any sales.

There will continue to be support for Qantas customers and frequent flyers who need special assistance, such as the elderly and families.

The airline still expects there will be a surplus of around 100 roles in various airports across Australia, and is consulting with the Australian Services Union. However, it’s likely that this shortfall will be filled through voluntary redundancies.

Qantas’ executive manager of product and service, Phil Capps, said there were “a few factors” behind these changes by the airline.

“The main driver is an increasing shift towards people using our app to check in and manage their own bookings, particularly as we expand what the app can do,” he said.

“This was happening before COVID, but it has accelerated significantly since. Given that shift, we can’t ignore the efficiencies that come with removing the traditional sales desks, particularly in the current environment.”

“While most employees will be redeployed, we expect most or all job losses will be voluntary redundancies.”

New Canberra routes and alliance request

Image source: iStock/Ryan Fletcher

Qantas has also announced a major expansion of its network from the nation’s capital, with three new routes commencing in the next month from Canberra.

The Canberra-Sunshine Coast service will operate three times a week and starts on Thursday 19 November, the Canberra-Cairns service will operate twice a week and starts on Saturday 21 November, and the Canberra-Hobart service will operate three times a week and starts on Friday 4 December.

The flights will be operated by QantasLink’s dual-class Boeing 717s, featuring 12 seats in business and 98 seats in economy.

The new routes follow on from the recent successful launch of Canberra-Gold Coast flights, the reinstatement of flights to Perth and additional services to Brisbane.

Since state and territory border restrictions eased in September, Qantas has announced nine new routes across Australia.

Qantas has also submitted a joint application with American Airlines to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to replace a current authorisation with a new one so both carriers can continue their trans-Pacific alliance.

The proposed replacement authorisation would allow Qantas and American Airlines to coordinate their operations between Australia/New Zealand and the US, Canada and Mexico pursuant to a joint coordination agreement for a further five years (until November 2025).

Qantas and American Airlines have also requested interim authorisation from the ACCC to allow them to facilitate a seamless continuation of the existing joint business into 2021.

The competition watchdog is inviting parties wanting to block the proposed reauthorisation to make a submission by 20 November 2020.

The ACCC expects to issue its draft determination and interim authorisation decision in either December 2020 or January 2021, before handing down its final determination in either February or March.

Featured image source: iStock/CraigRJD