Dumping luggage at Dallas: what choice did Qantas have but to leave baggage behind?

Dumping luggage at Dallas: what choice did Qantas have but to leave baggage behind?

Earlier this week Qantas deliberately left three containers of passengers' luggage at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) due to concerns over fuel consumption for the QF8 flight from DFW to Brisbane.

But did Qantas really have a choice?

That's an opinion being thrown around by some industry spectators, who claim the alternative was to risk ditching the plane into the sea, 200km off the Australian coastline.

"Welcome to how airlines operate all throughout the world. I personally don't see this as controversial," wrote one member of the Australian Frequent Flyer forum.

"Another boring aviation story that'll apply to one flight a year or DYKWIA [don't you know who I am] types who don't understand how the business works," suggested another.

Aviation journalist Ben Sandilands, who has been reporting on the airline industry since 1960, emphatically rejects that proposition.

Sandilands argues that Qantas management has been taking a foolhardy approach, ignoring the warnings of pilots that Qantas' 747 aircraft were unsuitable for the world's longest direct 747 route.

"Qantas pilots, armed with the range-payload charts for the jet, warned that this was always going to happen, and are arguing that this is a case of Qantas 'doing' Qantas rather than Qantas being 'done' by Dallas and its ultra-long range challenges," he writes for Crikey.

"Pilots say that the Boeing 747-400ER used on the scheduled non-stop Sydney-DFW journey -- and the return flight that is scheduled non-stop to Brisbane and then on to Sydney -- simply cannot do either trip with a full payload of passengers in realistic conditions in terms of unfavourable winds or diversion planning."

Qantas had already been booking flights with a small number of seats blocked out for 'no sale', in order to manage the weight of the plane, to ensure it could make the journey with enough fuel to spare for emergencies.

However, given the embarrassing circumstances of having to deliberately leave passenger baggage behind in Texas, it may have to consider further reducing the number of seats it sells on each flight, given the unpredictability of weather in southern USA. Stronger headwinds cause the plane to burn more fuel as engines work harder.

"According to excellent sources, Qantas is blocking off large numbers of seats as not for sale on the routes, as well as off-loading luggage, to avoid unscheduled stops along the routes to and from Texas" Sandilands reports.

"Which means that for much the same fares as it used to collect for San Francisco, it is flying the same jet much further, and burning more fuel and paying more crew wages, without ever being able to fill as many of the seats, and annoying the hell out of premium passengers in the process," Sandilands concludes.

In its defence, Qantas argues that landing in Texas opens up 16 more destinations in the US with only one stop from Australia than it could previously offer via Los Angeles and San Francisco.

danwarne

danwarne

Dan is a tech enthusiast who frequently qualifies for enhanced airport security screening due to the number of cords and gadgets stuffed into his cabin bag.
 

6 comments

  • am

    am

    25 May, 2011 01:23 pm

    No doubt that this is spot on... Management obviously decided that the tradeoffs were worth it, and I'm hoping that we're seeing the worst of the route at the moment... I'd rather go via LAX anyway...

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  • Jack

    Jack Melon

    25 May, 2011 01:52 pm

    Well when they made the route, they should have thought of it first, and tell their passengers, and there bags could be left behind, so the passengers dont make complaints. My opinion anyway.

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  • MyBagsArePacked

    MyBagsArePacked

    25 May, 2011 02:10 pm

    Of course they thought of this, they just figured that maybe it wouldn't happen for a while and that people wouldn't make such a fuss.

    Welcome to 2011 Qantas.

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  • fxdxdy

    fxdxdy

    25 May, 2011 02:51 pm

    The 787 on paper has a slightly longer range than the 747-ER so I wonder if Qantas are just going to sitck it out with the 747s until the 787s come along and then assign them to the route.
    The A380 also has a longer range on paper but I doubt they'll be able to fill the plane to the point it is profitable.

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  • damien

    damien

    25 May, 2011 04:07 pm

    It's pretty poor customer service to take a customers fare but not their luggage - route planners should have considered this. So Qantas!
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  • bl812

    bl812

    2 Oct, 2015 04:52 pm

    well I certainly won't fly with them on this route it's simply not safe one wrong decision and they have to ditch the plane -will be interesting to see how air india will manage the longest flight between Delhi and La which beats qantas attempt to be the longest and on a 777-200 er

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23 Oct, 2018 11:22 pm

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