QANTAS - WHERE TO NOW?
Recent events concerning the airline business we call Qantas have been very unusual and the internal gyrations between various internal business divisions; long haul, domestic, intrastate and support interesting. The national interest in Qantas as a matter of national interest is fascinating and lack of commercial interest by airline customers strange.
Now if you look at the current attempts to make Qantas a profitable international conglomerate not a domestic business and you might be excused for thinking it is perhaps incompatible with what Qantas International once was or is , especially in the nostalgic mind's eye of its many customer memories of their flight experience.
Now, I confess I have never flown for Qantas or applied to fly for them or work with them, so I have always looked on as another member of the industry and public. I like most Australians have flown with them a lot. I must also confess that the form of aerial travelling shiftwork offered by Qantas was never to my liking. None the less it seems for reasons nostalgic we all seem to own or think we own Qantas in a way we are attached to other national symbols, such as Anzac day. Recently I have had cause of a personal nature to rummage about through picture archives, and other bits and pieces of airline memorabilia of airlines and Australian Aviation History. I have looked at timetables and video clips and worked my way through a number of operations manuals for aeroplanes long gone. After a while you develop a feel for the journey that Qantas has been on for many years and its association to the wider public and our own memories of Qantas. So recent years and more recent events and new raise the Question - Qantas Where to Now? This is an outsiders view.
I think once all Australians looked at Qantas as Australia's Airline, we had purchased an emotional ticket in the well being of Qantas, what they did, where they went and the aeroplanes they had. Qantas and its endeavours were part of the national psyche. But going to and fro from Australia there was not a lot of choice and the others were mere flavours of the same theme but from different places; American, Kiwi, Singaporean, Thai, Japanese and the odd European. The Qantas brand offered a kind of Australian certainty in a fast changing world and one that was chic and smart at times. What changed?
Once, Qantas was called an Empire Airway, then it became Australia's Overseas Airline, then Australia's International Airline, then the Spirit of Australia. Internationally it progressed from flying boats, DC-3s through the Constellation era into the 707 and then the 747 and 767. Qantas grew holding a tight grasp of the journeys to and from Australia and the places Australians were flying to. Always a government owned business enterprise despite its foundations in outback Queensland it was a flag for the country and embodied the safe success of air travel's development and growth. So the country and who came and went from it changed.
Fleet wise Qantas International was always a small player by most international comparison. The merger of Trans Australian Airlines (TAA) into the Qantas Group was seen as a good idea at the time but the domestic side always had a different culture and history than the international side. That common history and culture makes business's work and makes people want to work for them. It appears however that the overall success of the domestic side of the house hid some grim realities unleashed by Labour under Hawke and Keating and then the deregulation of the Australia-International market which created a whole new series of challenges for Qantas, that for a while they seemed able to manage. So the political and aviation policy environment changed.
The 80's through to post 2000 changed the airline business forever, mass market travel and tourism travel and sheer world population growth fuelled a phenomenal increase in air transport across the world. More people travelled more often to more places. Air travel became common place and routine. You have to have an edge like the Emirates do to play above your weight in the world of international air transport. Market size wins all in that game, so the market(s) changed.
Gyrations in the world of finance, resources and national economies have been subjected to unprecedented boom conditions and now an unprecedented bust. So the world of money changed.
Now Australia's airline has to stand side by side with all the others to attract the customers attention and loyalty and it has to do that in a world of globalised business, shifting centres of wealth and influence and the competing demands of nearly every place somewhere on the planet for tourism.
So, where to now for Qantas? I know what I remember about Qantas but I can find none of it in the current airlines experience. I cannot think of a single thing about Qantas that would now make me buy a Qantas ticket over another carrier or pay a premium to do so. Ten years ago I would have chosen Qantas first intenationally and split the difference domestically to be fair but now I cannot.
So to answer my question, where to now? the answer is in how you make Qantas unique again? and can you?