Qantas boss Alan Joyce attempted to walk back critical remarks he made about his own customers who have faced eight hour long call wait times and snaking queues at Sydney airport on Friday after he said passengers were the cause of major delays because they weren’t “match fit”.
Joyce suggested that passengers had forgotten many of the basics of flying after two years of travel restrictions and lockdowns, and that inexperience was the cause of many of the delays.
Passengers have shared images and video of long and chaotic queues snaking around and out the door of terminal buildings at Sydney Airport. Some passengers have missed their flights as a result of the delays and more disruption is expected over the weekend and throughout the Easter period.
Joyce said the delays were down to passengers forgetting to remove their laptops and aerosols from their bags when going through airport security. Sydney Airport backed up Joyce’s criticism, tweeting:
“We’re facing a perfect storm at the moment. Traffic numbers are picking up, travellers are inexperienced after two years of not traveling, and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We sincerely apologise for this inconvenience.”
Qantas has responded to mounting criticism over long call centre wait times by also blaming passengers, saying that 60 per cent of calls could have been sorted via the Qantas website.
Qantas says call volumes have nearly doubled compared to before the pandemic and that average call times have increased by around 50 per cent due to the complexity of COVID-related travel enquiries.
And while the airline acknowledges call wait times are “not acceptable”, a Qantas spokesperson said it “will take some time for call wait times to normalise”.
The Transportation Workers Union (TWU) has laid the blame at Joyce’s door, saying much of the disruption was down to his decision to axe thousands of jobs during the pandemic and outsource many others to third parties.
“There are 2,000 Qantas ground crew sitting at home waiting to be reinstated, after being illegally sacked so Qantas could rehire them on cheaper pay and worse conditions,” slammed TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.
“Qantas pocketed A$865 million in JobKeeper and at the same time illegally outsourced its entire ground operations. Now the airline doesn’t have enough customer service workers, baggage handlers or ground staff to respond to surging demand.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.