Glitches take the shine off Qantas

By David Flynn , January 20 2015
Glitches take the shine off Qantas

A handful of technical hiccups marred the recent launch of Qantas’ upgraded Airbus A330s during its first international flights.

While the airline’s next-gen Business Suites have been met with great enthusiasm by travellers, the new inflight entertainment system has suffered crashes in both business class and economy.

A senior partner in a Melbourne-based law firm told Australian Business Traveller that the inaugural Melbourne-Singapore flight – which departed on Saturday  January 17 with due fanfare and celebratory cupcakes – was also notable for failures of the inflight entertainment system and economy toilets. 

"The screens started crashing..."

The traveller – who holds lifetime Gold frequent flyer status with Qantas but wishes to remain anonymous due to a business relationship with the airline – said that “early in the flight the screens started crashing” throughout the economy cabin.

“In some cases (they were) freezing. In most cases, the content ‘disappeared’” from the home screen, leaving passengers unable to select programs to watch.

An engineer from system provider Panasonic who was travelling with the flight rebooted the screens, however the problem re-occurred on the aircraft’s return Singapore-Sydney flight, which Australian Business Traveller experienced first-hand in business class.

Some people watching movies reported the film would suddenly stop and their 11 inch personal screens would revert to the main menu, but several categories, images and links were missing from the app which serves as the home screen.

A Panasonic engineer on the flight explained to Australian Business Traveller that “people watching movies were dumped out of the movie onto the home screen and weren't able to start the movie again… they’d navigate through the screen but the thumbnails weren't there.”

“We were able to recover from this by doing a manual reset for each seat [but] we suspect the interactive [home] screen may be having an issue.”

Some screens observed by Australian Business Traveller were set to rights but others remained locked onto the ‘loading’ screen for the remainder of the flight.

"Qantas had Panasonic engineering support on-board to monitor and assist with the launch of the new system” a Qantas spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller.

"They assisted with a number of individual IFE system resets as a small number of passengers were experiencing ‘page empty’ screens when cycling through the IFE categories.”

"This issue affected the first two sectors and has not recurred on subsequent sectors” the spokeswoman said, adding that "Panasonic is currently investigating the root cause” of the problem.

Problems with loos, too

The Melbourne-Singapore inaugural also saw two economy toilets out of service when the hand basins refused to drain.

“We had 20 to 30 people in line to use the (working) toilets” the Melbourne-based reader told Australian Business Traveller, with other passengers instructed to use the toilets with blocked washbasins “to ‘download’ and then use other facilities or bottled water to wash their hands.”

“There was no general PA announcement and certainly no offer to use the business class toilets” he added.

The Qantas spokeswoman confirmed that “two rear economy bathrooms were out of service due to issues with hand basin drainage. The remaining four economy lavatories and two business lavatories were unaffected.”

Engineers at Singapore's Changi Airport rectified the basin drainage issue before the aircraft turned around for its Singapore-Sydney return journey.

"While it was disappointing to encounter these issues on our inaugural service, we were very pleased with the customer feedback we received on the overall new A330 experience” the spokeswoman said.

The A330s are being upgraded at Qantas’ Brisbane maintenance facility in a tip-to-tail refit which takes around 30 days – and it's close to a total interior rebuild, as this time-lapse video shows.

Detailed AusBT review: Qantas Business Suite A330 business class

Qantas has two of the refub’d birds already flying – one domestic and one international – with three more due to take wing by the end of March, ramping up to a fleet of 11 by August.

Read: Qantas plans rapid roll-out for A330 Business Suite

The domestic jets feature primarily on the Sydney-Perth and Melbourne-Perth routes in addition to some daily Sydney-Melbourne sprints.

Qantas will work to get three upgraded A330s flying from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Singapore and then broaden its network map, with Hong Kong tipped as the second Asian city to see the new Business Suites.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

02 Jan 2013

Total posts 142

Put liptstick on a pig, it's still a pig!

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

Exactly what is the 'pig' here, Broderick? The A330, which is one of the world's best-selling commercial aircraft and used by scores of airlines? The Qantas IFE, which is entirely new and based on Panasonic's latest IFE system? I'm not sure even you know exactly what you are talking about.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1245

Pigs are great... with or without lipstick. Bacon, pork roasts and ham! 

Hopefully the issues have been fixed for future flights.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 525

So what do you call the brand new SQ 77W's that have the same system installed? I flew one earlier this year SIN-LHR and had the exact same issues. The damn thing would freeze all the time and had to be reset 2-3 times over the whole journey.

Bring a good book and your iPod ;)

Hollywood churns out too much junk these days anyway!

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 151

I find the IFE obsession puzzling.  I turn the bloody thing off as soon as the safety vid is over.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2223

Agreed, but I find myself using the peace and quiet to write (for work or for pleasure, as I like zoning out to wring one-shot stories) rather than mindlessly consuming Hollywood remakes.

That, or sleep.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2013

Total posts 42

Best for it to happen now so they can address and perfect it all for later planes. Perhaps the refit was too.....'rapid'? ;)

Out of interest, David, do you know if the domestic one has encountered problems of a similar nature or has it just been isolated to these couple of international flights? Cheers 

Etihad - Etihad Guest

06 Apr 2012

Total posts 91

Interesting point you make, Alatar144.  Reflecting on comments from Qantas' Kylie Morris in the previous AusBT article where she states "...we’re doing that reconfiguration in 30 days which is pretty damned fast.”.  You can't help but wonder whether the rollout schedule has allocated sufficient time for quality checks before the aircraft is returned to production service.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 591

I had a flight from PH to ML last week on the domestic A332 and it too had a malfunctioning toilet.  Also typical QF customer service to provide no announcement and leave the queues for the toilets to go to such excessive levels.  Surely in this special circumstance they could have allowed a limited number of economy pax use the J toilets...better that then having a little kid pissing themselves on the floor cos they can't wait for 1 hr+ of queueing, especially when some people spend 30mins in the toilet doing god knows what (I'll leave that to your imagination).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1386

Any new install has the potential of problems.

Qantas has spent almost 2-yrs from the initial 'design' announcment to launching these seats (admittedly changed substantially)

Equally they have presumably spent lots of hours with Panasonic on the ex3 and exLite systems.

No way you can say the rollout was too quick.

Just hope for a quick and long term fix

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2013

Total posts 42

Hi moa999,

I was being a little bit cheeky regarding the quickness of the refit. It was a rather unsubtle jab at a rather silly argument of a few weeks ago regarding the use of the word 'rapid'.  For my part, I think it is an extraordinary testament to the skill of the engineers that these hiccups are the ONLY (and relatively minor) issues to come up considering the speed of the refit.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

Some teething problems on first of the line aircraft refurb are not unreasonable - the offline Economy toilets are more of a concern than the entertainment system glitches, but thankfully it was just the basins with problems, not the actual toilets themselves. 

As long as these issues get ironed out soon, no need for Henny Pennying. Yes, it's possible that the urgency to roll the product out might have increased the risk of gremlins but isn't it better to have it sooner than later (although I hope Qantas offered some sort of apology gift for those affected).

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

Nobody is crying "The sky is falling" Gippsflyer. I think it's just that AusBT is being far and balanced in its coverage of the Qantas A330 rollout. They've ben covering the A330 refit and especially the Business Suite for months now and doing it very thoroughly, well this is part of that 'story' and given how positive its all been for Qantas to date it shows me how balanced and independent AusBT is in being willing to report on something like this. Nobody is saying this is 'BIG' news but in the context of the inaugural it's worth reporting don't you think?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

Mal I wasn't talking about AusBT's coverage, "A handful of technical hiccups" does not an allusion to the sky falling make :-)

It reflects well on AusBT to report both the good and the bad, as they've done. I think it is too early for others to write the whole thing off, al a bacon references, on some first day teething issues. Not sure how you made AusBT out of that.

06 Dec 2011

Total posts 8

Long term fliers with QF know that the entertainment system has never reliably worked

Back in 2007 (when I used to write) I wrote for the next two years about regular crashes and failures in the QANTAS VOD and entertainment system.  Slow forward 8 years, and in 4 of the last 6 flights I or my children have taken on QF the entertainment system has crashed.  In two cases it did not work all flight. In one case I was in a seat that could not even get the "broadcast" version.  It is therefore no surprise at all that QANTAS has blown it with entertainment.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

It's true that, on occassions, Qantas has IFE issues but having travelled extensively on Qantas and many other airlines, I wouldn't say significantly more than any other airline I've flown. I can only comment about my direct experience, but that is what it's been.

What does ping my radar though is AJW saying SQ has similar problems with the Panasonic system in question. It raises the question of whether this Panasonic IFE system is prone to a higher rate of error (irregardless of the aircraft is on), to which I don't know the answer. I hope for Qantas that the answer is no, because it'll be an ongoing headache otherwise for them.

06 Dec 2011

Total posts 8

@gippsflyer.  You and I have had very different experiences.  I have never experienced a glitch on any other airline.  Yet on Qantas it has happened often enought and for long enough (8 years) to be called a regular event. When I announce we are flying QANTAS in my house, my son insists I download movies to his iPad because "Dad, well, you know why".

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

Different experiences can happen - luck of the draw. My last major IFE glitch was on Emirates (a new A380, which I identified because the First seats no longer had massage function and an updated mini-controller). That required the complete shut-down of IFE mid-flight (and it didn't come back). It's always wise to have back-up.

20 Jan 2015

Total posts 1

Many people have nothing better to think about. When the IFE was upgraded on the 747 400s in the mid nineties there were teething problems and they took a while but eventually were sorted out.  Same will happen with this iteration of IFE. It's expected that there will be glitches to sort out and thats why the engineer from Panasonic is on board. Sure, it's  inconvenient when  happens but at least the system isnt flying the aircraft.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 38

For years I've been Qantas bashing and quite rightly too.  But as I sit in the Qantas Singapore Lounge (waiting for my BA flight because there's no way I'm going to that dump of a lounge) after a month long trip flying on many OW (and other) airlines, I have come to the realisation that whilst Qantas hardly flies anywhere anymore (and I'm not counting EK metal as QF), Qantas at its worst, is WAY better than most airlines out there.

last week I was in LHR in BAs first lounge which is NOTHING on the QF First, Business lounges and is probably on par with QF Club domestic.  I flew BA within Europe both WT and Club Europe and they dont even HAVE IFE. I flew intercontinental UL and got a handful of daaaaaaaaaated movies on an old EK system that was painful to use.

honestly, in a few years IFE will be redundant as we'll all be using our own devices and for that matter, if IFE is THAT important to you, download what you want and watch it on your own device.  Only a few years ago we were all glued to a grainy overhead TV with a bad movie (or 2 if you were lucky) per sector enroute to London.

Glass half full people!  

Now only if they actually flew to a few more destinations.....esp from MEL.


 

17 Jun 2011

Total posts 66

Having malfuntioning IFE is certianly a first world problem but having just flown in Y on the old A330 from MNL-SYD my priority would be how comfy are the new Y seats - the old seats are shockingly uncomfortable and cramped. The seat pitch seemed non-existant. The overnight 8hr full flight was miserable at best - throw in three screaming babies spread out evenly through the cabin - the pain!

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 151

Welcome to economy.  You want comfort, cough up the money.

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 151

“There was no general PA announcement and certainly no offer to use the business class toilets”.  


An an announcement over the PA may have been wise, but keeping the curtain closed?  I have no problem with that.  

21 Jan 2015

Total posts 2

I was on this flight and there was an announcement made about the problem. The staff where very helpful and delt with the problems in a very  undistruptive manner. 

21 Jan 2015

Total posts 2

I was on this flight and there was an announcement made about the problem. The staff where very helpful and delt with the problems in a very  undistruptive manner. 


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