Qantas nosedives in global airline ranking

Qantas has tanked in an international airline ranking, plummeting from fifth to 17th spot on the back of customer complaints about late or cancelled flights and lost baggage.

Jun 22, 2023, updated Jun 22, 2023

The 2023 World Airline Awards have revealed the ranking of 100 global airlines; while Singapore Airlines took out the top spot, Qantas was No.17 – a significant drop since last year, when the airline ranked No.5.

Virgin Australia also fell over the past year, from No.43 to No.46.

But Qantas, which has the largest share of airline passengers in Australia, was engulfed in customer complaints over everything from late flights to lost baggage through much of 2022.

The customer surveys used for the award’s international airline rankings were open from September 2022 to May 2023, encompassing several months in which there were still significantly high rates of dissatisfied Qantas customers.

Airline Intelligence and Research CEO and former Qantas chief economist Tony Webber said the drop in customer satisfaction likely came down to two main factors: reliability and customer service.

Biggest issues facing Qantas

Qantas’ on-time departures dropped to 52 per cent in July 2022. This figure rose to 71 per cent in early September, when the customer surveys for airlines rankings started.

Qantas has been the most punctual domestic airline for several months, and recorded 77.4 per cent on-time departures in April – but it still saw a flight cancellation rate of 3.6 per cent the same month.

These figures are likely below the standard customers might expect from Australia’s biggest carrier.

“Reliability looks at the flights that [airlines] actually flew divided by the flights that [airlines] said would fly,” Webber said.

“That number should typically be around 98 to 99 per cent. But domestically, it fell to as low as … 92 per cent.

“So it fell materially, and it’s improved, but it still has to improve a bit.”

Customer service has also been a sticking point for Qantas, an issue likely exacerbated by a staff shortage following mass layoffs during the height of the pandemic.

Webber said customer service could affect the experience of passengers at the airport, in the air, or at home trying to sort out issues after their travel.

“It could be they’ve lost their baggage. It could be that they’ve waited for a flight and haven’t been told anything’s going on,” he said.

“You can read about people that are complaining about Qantas online. It’s just an enormous number of complaints.”

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Time heals

Webber said many of the issues that likely negatively affected Qantas’ rankings should improve with time as the airline continues to recover from the pandemic and rebuild the strength of its workforce.

A Qantas spokesperson acknowledged the airline’s service was clearly not at its best when the customer surveys for the 2023 World Airline Awards began.

“A lot has changed since, and if you ran this survey today, the results would be very different,” the spokesperson said.

“We’ve worked hard to improve and the feedback from customers shows we are.”

Qantas’ mishandled baggage rates are 18 per cent below pre-COVID levels, and the average call wait time in May was one minute.

Other airlines juggling fewer markets

Webber said it’s also important to note that some of the top 10 airlines service few or no domestic routes, including Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and Emirates.

Meanwhile, Qantas was trying to revive its international and domestic routes simultaneously.

“A lot of those carriers are recovering from COVID, and if they’re bringing capacity back conservatively, and they’re not running into significant problems, then they’re going to get high rankings,” he said.

“But if you’ve got a strong domestic client sector, and you’ve tried to recover really quickly, you’re having teething problems coming back from it – and then you’re going to get low rankings.”

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