AFTA View – November 2011
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Caught by the Qantas grounding but luckily I use a travel agent
By Jay Westbury, chief executive Australian Federation
of Travel Agents
NO matter what your political persuasion, or your views of the industrial relations laws of Australia, I think it is clear that the travel industry and more particularly travel agents are pleased that the Qantas (QF) fleet is flying with certainty following the decision to lock out the employees in dispute and ground the fleet.
As someone directly impacted by the decision – I was scheduled to return on QF32 from Singapore on Sunday October 30, I can speak first hand of how frustrated passengers were.
However, luckily I use a travel agent and was re booked onto an SQ flight on the Sunday and got home two hours earlier than first planned.
Now it might be that I was one of the lucky ones you could say, but I strongly believe that it was not luck, but clear and simple choice of having used a travel agent who could sort my needs out.
Over the past few weeks following the grounding we have been really pushing this point home in the consumer media and they [the consumer media] have been lapping it up.
There is no question that this disaster, albeit a man made one, demonstrated categorically the benefit of using a travel agent rather than having booked direct.
Choice, service, knowledge and ability have been the bedrock of what travel agents offer and thousands of effected passengers know this first hand.
Fortunately it would also appear that the consumer media is also finding this out from feedback from people writing, calling or appearing on the various forms of media.
AFTA has been pushing this line very hard on this occasion as it is a very different set of circumstances to those when natural disasters have occurred and in some cases where lives have tragically been lost.
On this occasion it is clear that thousands of lives have been put into disarray, but nobody got hurt.
As the weeks and months flow on from the QF grounding it will be interesting to see how consumers and travel agents react.
The communications from QF to consumers and the trade has been strong and most people know how to get the compensation offered.
These things are never easy and I am sure there will be some hiccups along the way but, at the end of the day, Australia needs a strong national carrier both domestically and internationally.
Let’s hope that over the next two months all the matters will be resolved and we can get back to business as usual.
There has been some consumer media reports that legislation is needed to ensure that QF can and cannot do certain things. In my view it would be a shame if for no other reason than being an Australian, a legislative imposition be placed upon any business which is competing in a global environment.
It’s called a level playing field.
It is also very close to the hearts of travel agents as this is what we have been asking for in the review of consumer protection.
In the end I hope that intelligence will prevail and that decisions by the legislator will be to support the success of Qantas going forward and ensure that Australia, the travel industry and the travelling public will have a strong and competitive national carrier that we can all be proud of.
Jay Westbury’s AFTA View column appears monthly.