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Is Qantas really 'downgrading' Hobart flights?

By David Flynn     Filed under: qantas, Hobart, QantasLink, Boeing 717

TALKING POINT | Qantas is handing its Hobart flights over to regional offshoot QantasLink, replacing the current Boeing 737 jets with smaller Boeing 717s from mid-April.

But is this necessarily a backwards step for business travellers who regularly zip across Bass Strait between Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney?

Yes, Qantas' workhorse Boeing 737s will vanish from Hobart skies – but their replacement Boeing 717s have been fitted with new business class and economy seats (plus Q Streaming iPads in case you get bored during the trip).

Read: QantasLink upgrades Boeing 717s with business class, iPads

That's a drop from 168 seats to 110 seats, which Qantas says is all about 'right-sizing' the route and "making sure we have the right aircraft on the right routes in support of leisure and business travel opportunities between Tasmania and the mainland."

The number of Melbourne-Hobart flights will also increase with one extra Hobart-Melbourne return service per day.

Qantas will let go all 35 of its Hobart ground staff, with their roles to be filled by contract workers.

However, local QantasLink contractor Cobham Aviation Services will be hiring approximately 15 pilots and 30 cabin crew to be based in Hobart to cater for the new Boeing 717 service.

In short, Qantas' plan for Hobart has both swings and roundabouts – so how do you rate the change? Is this better or worse for Hobart's business travellers and frequent flyers?

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About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

 

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1 on 14/1/14 by chrisjrn

I think it's a downgrade. This is going to result in less capacity in Hobart at the useful times of day for business travellers. If you want to get to Melbourne in time for business hours to start, there'll be 60 more seats available on Virgin (who still use a 737) compared with Qantas.

Worse still, the 717 is a pretty awful plane compared with either of the planes Virgin flies on the route. If you're near the back of the 717, the rear-mounted jets are really quite loud.

1 on 14/1/14 by wingspan

I would say that the 717 is better than the other planes on the route but I guess that it just depends on personal preferences. Sitting near the back of a 717 is a lovely experience - the different centre of gravity feels nice and smooth on take-off and landing. Again, just depends on preferences maybe.

2 on 14/1/14 by moa999

But frequent business travellers won't be anywhere near the rear... QF status does work.

1 on 14/1/14 by chrisjrn

Sure, but there'll still be fewer seats available on each flight. Even if status works, it's going to be harder to find seats at short notice for flights with useful times, and Hobart's already massively under-capacity at peak times.

Worse still is that by letting go of their mainline staff, they won't be able to upgrade to a 737 to take advantage of extra demand. They'll only be able to fly 717s. Virgin, on the other hand, often upgrade their E-190s up to 737s flying to Hobart when they need extra capacity. Qantas won't be able to do that. That's going to hurt the frequent traveller.

1 on 14/1/14 by hutch

Can you explain why a QF 737-8 couldn't be flown to Hobart in the furture to increase capacity when required?

1 on 15/1/14 by chrisjrn

They're firing all of the ground crew with expertise on how to operate a 737. There will be no Qantas staff at all based in Hobart, but just subcontractors. They'd need to re-hire 737 staff.

717s have nothing in common with other Boeing aircraft (they're from a former McDonnell-Douglas design).

1 on 15/1/14 by hutch

But what is to stop them flying MEL-HBA return with a Melbourne based crew?

1 on 17/1/14 by chrisjrn

They'd need to fly trained ground crew down to Hobart as well. They might be able to hire the Hobart-based contractors that Virgin and Tiger use, but I don't think Virgin would like that much.

1 on 20/1/14 by hutch

What particular ground crew? The only thing I can think of is baggage handling and I wouldn't think that would be too difficult to upskill a 717 handler. Catering & Fuel can be done in MEL and I understand QF's 737-8 dont get a pre-flight engineering check before every flight anymore.

3 on 14/1/14 by charlieg

Fully agree moa999

For Passenger experience, Hobart doesnt have any aero-bridges, so less steps to board the plane (due the B717 door being closer to the ground) and I dont know if QantasLink would pull up to a gate in MEL? This means braving the weather at both ends of the trip. 

From my past visits to Hobart, Virgin has better connection times to Hobart.

In saying that, I wouldn't hesitate to book on the upgraded QantasLink B717 provided it was still convenient timing, 

1 on 20/1/14 by Harrison133

Qantas 717's use aero-bridges in Melbourne.

4 on 14/1/14 by undertheradar

as far as i can see...the number of J/C seats per day will  approx be as per current.... or more ...just more spread over a day.....and the y/c cabin  may decrease in seats available during a day.. which im sure may lead to a 'fuller' y/c cabin...the reality is an airline doesnt make money from flying an a/c with empty seats ...why fly a 737 with  full 12J/C and some empty seats in 156Y/C  when QF can fly a 717 with full 12J/C and full 98Y/C

5 on 14/1/14 by Joshb

Probably a bit of a downgrade if you're one of the 35 Qantas staff being let go...

But I don't think having a 717 instead of 737 is necessarily a downgrade for me, would be nice to be on a different plane type from time to time when flying domestically.

6 on 14/1/14 by Marky

I can't really see any benefit to this move, apart from the extra service to Melbourne enabling more flexibilty. This is clearly another cost saving move by Qantas. But profit making? Now that's another question.

1 on 14/1/14 by undertheradar

you just highlighted a benefit to pax...an extra service enabling more flexiblity..and you still whinge... dare i say because the a/c service is 'braded' QF LINK....i suggest QF just brand ALL domestic rootails as QANTAS...get rid of  the 'LINK' .... VA have their a/c   (regional/domestic) with the same 'branding'...and get away with variations of 'service'!!!

7 on 14/1/14 by dazzaredroo

Qantas is only doing what any other airline would do in similar circumstances, the 717 is a great aircraft to fly in and with the upgraded cabin would only be better. If you don't like it fly the other mob (who btw also aren't that well known for supporting Australian jobs to support their operations either).

8 on 14/1/14 by PLATY

Of course it's a downgrade. The 717s were also refitted to compact more economy seats into the aircraft = less seat pitch.

And another case of avoiding paying staff - the awards for Cobham are less than QF mainline.

Saves 737s for the golden triangle and manipulating the absurd over capacity strategy in the fake 65% competition with VA...which is ironically bleeding pax to VA in places like CNS and HBA and lowering QF yields

1 on 14/1/14 by Al

"The 717s were also refitted to compact more economy seats into the aircraft" = because they are new slim-line seats, and also wasn't a toilet removed? I think PLATY you will find that the effective leg room is the same in both 717 configs.

1 on 14/1/14 by PLATY

Basing my info on that relayed by a friend who flies the 717.

1 on 14/1/14 by Al

PLATY, here is economy seat pitch according to TheQantasSource which is a very independent site:

  • QF Boeing 737-800: 30 inches
  • QF Boeing 717: 31 inches

So there is actually more leg room in the Boeing 717s compared to the Boeing 737-800s.

1 on 15/1/14 by PLATY

The Qantas source also says some seats are 31 inch and others 30 inch depending on how far back in the cabin 

1 on 15/1/14 by Al

So the very worst case scenario is that in economy you'd have the same 30 inch pitch on a 717 as a 737, and the best case scenario which is more likely for the AusBT readers is that even in economy you'd be seated up front in a row with 31 inch pitch because of Platinum or Gold status, or for the same reasons be able to choose those seats online. And with the 717 having slim-line economy seats even the same pitch as a 737 would still mean a bit of extra leg room.

1 on 15/1/14 by PLATY

Perhaps if you're a regular flyer and cashed up you'd simply take VA business class and not concern yourself with the niceties of whether the 717 is up to scratch.

2 on 15/1/14 by hutch

Without reading the awards, I'd also assume the awards for Skywest staff will be less than mainline VA. Is Virgin avoiding paying staff too?

1 on 15/1/14 by Yusef Danet

hutch

About the same, the A320 approx equal to 737, and F100 to E190 rates (bit less but 100 crews work less too)

rarely do VA replace mainline crews with Skywest/VARA crews though. E190 is fully mainline.

1 on 15/1/14 by hutch

Between SYD - CBR Skywest does the majority of flights on the ATR. They would be paid less than a 737/E190 crew yes?

1 on 21/1/14 by Yusef Danet

Of course, but probably not on a per-passenger basis!

9 on 14/1/14 by Al

This sounds sensible enough to me. Qantas must be seeing quite a lot of empty seats on its Boeing 737s if it is willing to swap those for 110-seat Boeing 717s, so that is a sensible business move and lets them put the 737s onto other routes where they might be needed more. At least these are refreshed 717s with business class. Not good if you are one of the workers being let go but from a pure 'business travel' standpoint I don't see that this is actually a significant 'downgrade' for Hobart. Qantas will need to make plenty more decisions like this in the months ahead because it has to cut its domestic losses anyway, so get used to it. At least this one isn't all that bad.

1 on 15/1/14 by mickeyg

Totally agree.  Looks like they are actually making smart business decisions instead of just sitting back crying about an "uneven playing field" with the competition.

1 on 15/1/14 by PLATY

perhaps dimishing your product in the face of your greatest threat (VA) isn't that smart even if it massages the balance sheet 

but yes they gotta act rather than whimper

10 on 15/1/14 by RWGW100

Will the loss of the Qantas staff in Tasmania be followed by the demise of the Qantas Clubs there?

Qantas has already demonstrated its lack of commitment to regular customers who have to fly with part of its group, Jetstar, by closing down the Qantas Club in Terminal 2 at Sydney. Will it also be tempted, in the name of coast savings, to treat its QantsLink clients as second class flyers too? Qantas needs to appreciate that regional centres like Hobart do feed passengers into their whole network. If I have to fly to Melbourne with Virgin, I will be very tempted to stay with them for national and interantional travel once I hit the mailand!

1 on 15/1/14 by PLATY

Absolutely - QF have cut flights out of CNS which feed into their international network in SYD.

Not gonna pay for QF first to ride to SYD on JQ

Have these 717s actually all been refitted now??? i thought that program was running LATE

11 on 15/1/14 by AusFlyer

For a flight that is less than 2 hours it's really no big deal.

1 on 15/1/14 by PLATY

On the basis of that logic, there's no point running lounges for the vast majority of travellers since they are on the SYD-BNE-MEL triangle.

In fact, that logic takes you probably exactly where Joyce is heading - down market and eventually predominmtly Jetstar.

Will people still from A to B, sure, do they need a lounge, no, are most customers price driven and will put up with low service, yes, yippeee we got Jetstar!

1 on 16/1/14 by AusFlyer

Platy... Please refrain from talking about my logic. I mentioned nothing about lounges and neither does the article. Having flown on the 717 a number of times, I find it perfectly comfortable for a short flight and I have no issue if I have to fly on it again. Therefore.. given that the question in the article refers to "how do I rate the change", I don't see it as a big deal for a flight time of less than two hours.

I know you love to constantly pass on your negative views about Qantas at every opportunity (so I can't understand why you would continue to fly them if you dislike them so much), but please don't tell me about my logic when I was simply answering the question in the article. I don't see how my comment, which is my opinion, can be construed as me being of the same mind as Alan Joyce making Qantas into Jetstar... I don't actually see how it can be seen as anything as providing my own personal comment as to whether I "rate the change" as per the question.

1 on 16/1/14 by PLATY

AusFlyer, when I was working through the comments herein your response appeared to fall under comment 10 by RWGW100 when I was looking through the posts, which primarily raised the question of losing HBA QF lounges.

Accepting on the basis of your counter post that it wasn't meant to refer to that post/issue I apologise for misinterpreting the intentions of your post. 

I have no problem with you having a divergent point of view, whether for or against aspects of QF mangement, service, or whatever.

I regard a service by a 717 a downgrade. You don't. So be it.

In my home town of Cairns there has been an ongoing downgrade of service by QF, first removing all international flights, then removing morning flights to Sydney and then removing some morning flights to Brisbane and the cross country flights to DRW and PER on 737s.

There was a move then to replace some 737 flights to BNE with 717s (with no business class) and concerns rasied by various locals including contact from our lcoal federal MPS office with QF.

So...in many cases even if I want to support QF I simply can't, having previosuly flown with them (quite happily) for up to 100 times a year domestically in/out of CNS.

Meanwhile, VA has stepped up offering 6 flights most days CNS-BNE and opened a lounge.

And yes there are now a handful of Jetstar flights.

So...please understand that when QF messes with its "regional" services i am looking at the issue from historical fact and personal experience - I am concerned that the HBA servcies will go full circle.

Note that OOL lost QF only eventually to regain.

Joyce wants more capacity on the golden triangle (that appears to by why  737 servcies were removed from CNS) to fight a "fake " capacity war (65% line in the sand), which has lowered yields and contributed to huge losses. a situation I suspect we all want to see dealt with.

Therein my issue with QF - it is hopelessly mismanaged. It's not just me that has this point of view - see media articles today calling for Joyce to go (raising many of the points i have myself on this very website).

And in reference to your (logically flawed) implication that questioning the way an airline is run means you can't travel on it, why can't I travel on QF when it suits me and travel on VA when its suits (I'm P1 on QF and Platinum on VA)? Lounges are closed - fly VA. HBA offers 717 - fly VA. Double staus credits on QF - fly QF, etc.

The customer facing staff on QF are excellent. I have put through glowing written reports on a numberwith recommendations for Excel Awards.

Now in terms of the original question - is the 717 service an improvement in service?  

1 on 17/1/14 by AusFlyer

Hi PLATY... I don't dispute at all that there are some places across the country that are losing out in the Qantas decision-making process and I do agree that there is a certain level of mis-management at QF. I think it is time for a change in management there... not just of Alan Joyce but across the Qantas board. Fresh eyes and fresh ideas will hopefully mean that Qantas can return to what it used to be. 

I can't profess to understanding all the intracacies with aviation management but I have been involved in airlines all my life (my father held a senior management position with a major overseas airline). I have seen how airlines have had to manage themselves through the many challenges over the years (avian flu, GFC etc) as I'm sure you have. I have seen major airlines drop routings and disappoint passengers in their decision making process as they try to stay afloat in difficult times. For us as the passenger, we see any decision that doesn't suit our own needs as being a bad decision. Some of them honestly are, such as the decisions to keep changing Qantas flights to Jetstar because this has a much bigger impact to the traveller (frequent flyer points etc). However, changing the HBA flights to MEL and SYD from a 737 (narrow body aircraft) to a 717 (narrow body aircraft) is just not a major blow for me since the flight time is so short. Okay... I don't have to fly the sector frequently, but I do fly it occasionally and the honest truth is that the 2-3 layout is much nicer (since I can pick a seat on the right side which only has 2 seats) than then 737 which is 3-3. On the larger scale of what Qantas is doing... it just isn't such a big deal for me.

Is it an improvement? No... It's not an improvement... It's just not such a big deal. Hopefully you can understand my rationale... I'm not suggesting you have to agree... but I'm not supporting the move.. I'm indifferent to it and think there are much bigger areas that we should be voicing for change at Qantas.

1 on 17/1/14 by PLATY

Thanks Ausflyer, in fact we are in total agreement.

1 on 20/1/14 by whipper

Hobart, like Cairns is a predominately tourist route with some local business thrown in for good measure.  I don't see the problem if they don't run a 737 - that at various times of the week will be flown half empty and substitute it with another jet aircraft.  What I do find annoying is projecting an issue out like lounge closures when they are running them at places like Launceston and Townsville with no speculation whatsoever they will be lost.  If anything right-sizing the aircraft and cutting wage costs will make the lounges more viable, not less.  You can tell the people on this thread that run businesses and those that don't....  

12 on 16/1/14 by mitchimus

lots of interesting comments on this story, but in the end...I don't ever feel I am on a 'different' airline when i am on a Qantaslink flight...they are both full service, just the aircraft change.

I have been bemused by the nonsense sprouted by the pollies in Tas over this issue...

1 on 16/1/14 by mitchimus

also have to say I quite enjoyed flting on the 717 when I have done that...usually Broome - Perth, so way longer than Hobart - Melb...

13 on 22/1/14 by Mike

I'd anything it's a bit of a laugh reading these comments. Getting treated like a "second class citizen" Is a bit rich. 

So for those who don't have the luxury of having a work supplied business class seat, and cannot see the value in paying for a front end seat for such short routes......are these people sub standard?

For the record the 717 is a great plane and without the middle seat (at least on one side) I find it preferable to the 737. Just as VA's E190's 2x2 layout is also.  

I have found from experience that Cobham crews are much more pleasant as a whole over mainline QF. 

Personally, when choice permits I now choose VA's product as QF has been an 'only' choice since the demise of AN. It's great to have some choice and competition. Back on the table. Notice how QF's latest as is very....umm.....Virgin-esque? As the ol saying goes " Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery".

Aaaah......First world problems......

1 on 23/1/14 by Mike

Make that 'ad' rather hen 'as' that is virgin-esque...

 

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