If there were ever a company that appeared to deliberately be going out of its way to win a Shonky award, it's Qantas.
The so-called Spirit of Australia, which has been a part of the national fabric for over 100 years, has been a disappointment to customers since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.
"Qantas has always sold itself as the premium Australian domestic airline, and Australians have been very proud of Qantas as a premium airline. But what we've seen recently is Qantas taken down to the level of a budget airline," says CHOICE money and travel expert Jodi Bird.
The travel chaos at airports and cases of lost baggage have been well documented
"They had the worst rates for flight delays, and their baggage handling has really been poor in the last year. People are still paying premium prices, but not getting premium service."
In July this year Qantas had the worst rate of on-time domestic arrivals of any Australian airline with only 47.1% of flights arriving on time, according to the Australian government's Bureau of Transport. (They have since improved, recording 69.2% on-time arrivals in September.)
The travel chaos at airports and cases of lost baggage have been well documented.
CHOICE money and travel expert Jodi Bird says Qantas has been performing at the level of a budget airline.
Holding $1.4bn in travel credits
Then there are the issues Qantas customers have had using their travel credits accumulated from COVID-related travel cancellations.
In April this year, Qantas and Jetstar combined were sitting on around $1.4 billion in unused flight credits and future bookings, with customers complaining that the system wouldn't let them book lower cost flights.
Customers are also reporting that flights are costing more when paid for with a voucher than with other payment types.
Qantas didn't state upfront that customers may be entitled to refundsCHOICE money and travel expert Jodi Bird
Qantas may have steered customers towards choosing a credit voucher by not being upfront about refund rights.
"At the beginning of the pandemic Qantas communicated to their customers that they were entitled to a credit voucher for cancelled flights. Qantas didn't state upfront that customers may be entitled to refunds," Jodi says.
Qantas call wait times
Then there's the issue of contacting the airline when you need to.
We conducted a mystery shop of airline call centre wait times in September 2022, and found that people needing to get in touch with Qantas by phone would wait 21 minutes on average for their call to be answered, and up to 50 minutes.
Although an improvement on 2021 wait times, Qantas still lagged behind competitor Virgin, whose customers waited an average of five minutes, and a maximum of 13 minutes. It's no wonder that Qantas was the most complained-about company to CHOICE by readers and members in 2022.
We think throwing peanuts at their customers is still not good enough when the airline continues to let them down
The ACCC has confirmed it's investigating the difficulties Qantas customers are having using their flight credits, but has declined to comment while the investigation is ongoing.
In August, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce apologised to customers for the poor performance. The airline announced initiatives to address mishandled bags and on-time performance, blaming high levels of sick leave and an industry-wide labour shortage.
The company said it had hired 1500 new people since April, with more to come, and threw in a $50 flight voucher to Frequent Flyer members to say sorry.
We think throwing peanuts at their customers is still not good enough when the airline continues to let them down.