Qantas CEO apologises over long call centre waiting times

Step 1: apologise for the problem. But step 2 – fixing the problem – will be much harder...

By David Flynn, April 7 2022
Qantas CEO apologises over long call centre waiting times

Qantas chief Alan Joyce has apologised to frustrated flyers for the hours they’ve spent on hold to the airline’s call centre.

“I do apologise for anybody trying to get through to our call centre at the moment,” Joyce said this week during a speech to the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“But that’s because our call centre, with these changes of borders, has gone from 5,000 calls a day to 15,000 calls a day.”

“And every time there’s a change, like New Zealand opening up, it spikes,” he added.

The airline has come under fire for its extensive delays in answering the phone, with a stream of complaints on social media citing waiting times stretching to several hours – even for elite Platinum frequent flyers who are accustomed to a quick response from the hotline.

Joyce’s remarks followed a similar mea culpa from Qantas Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully on Sydney radio station 2GB, where she acknowledged the wait times were “not acceptable.”

Tully told presenter Ben Fordham her “top priority” was to fix the problem.

“I want to sincerely apologies to our customers, the wait times are not acceptable at all,” she said.

“We have more people working than we ever have, and we’re going to keep doing that until we fix it.”

In a mass email sent today to the airline’s estimated 14 million Qantas Frequent Flyer members, Tully repeated her admission that “our recent call wait times have not been acceptable,” adding “we know we need to do better.”

“Australians have waited a long time to get back in the air, so the last thing you want is to wait hours on the phone to talk to our contact centres.”

While Qantas now has more call centre staff “than before the pandemic”, Tully says “call volumes are at an all-time high.”

And each of those calls are taking longer than before, she maintains: “the time our agents are talking to each customer has increased by an average of 50 per cent as people rearrange travel plans that are up to two years old.”

“Each month we are recruiting and training more people, and we’ll keep hiring more people and investing in better technology so it’s easier to talk to us, which will mean we will see improvements each week.”

But even as new staff are added – with the airline noting “by June this year, we’ll have increased staffing by 200 per cent (an increase of 750 people) within 12 months” – the fact that it takes six weeks to train new call centre agents means there’s still plenty of music on hold ahead.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 389

I do as much online as I can, but several times trying to redeem travel credit from previously cancelled trips the Qantas website has told me I can't redeem them online and to contact the call centre, and even as a Platinum One I spent two hours on hold last week, and that was calling early in the morning when you'd think there was a best chance of getting through. Not good enough, QF. I get that the calls these days are more complicated but the airline should be doing everything it can to streamline the online side of things too.

One of the reasons I didn't take up the QF double status offer was because of the long on hold delays, am I going to burn $10,000.00 on domestic flights in advance when I can't even contact the airline on the telephone without waiting stupid amounts of time? I've got many example of being let down having status which meant nothing waiting on the telephone.

I should also add over Xmas I waited 1 hour 30 minutes for VA to answer and was totally shocked when Deb answered and had lost her voice from the amount of calls answered, I should do a shout out to Deb and also Bob at VA there the best on the phone and don't forget Penny at QF.

Qantas

22 Oct 2012

Total posts 318

"...at the moment".  It's been this bad for 5-10 years!

If only Qantas could improve the functionality of their website so that customers could self-manage more of the common requests they have to make to call centre staff.  They clearly know what the most called problems are about, and those issues could be addressed by improvements to the website.

Qantas

03 Mar 2015

Total posts 19

I did take up the double status offer.  I booked in the 11th hour (Yes my own fault)  and I stupidly booked the wrong day.  (Again my fault though rushing) .
I finally got though today to change my Xmas booking only to be told.  You lose the DSC offer which the 1 day change.  Very frustrating.  

I changed one flight with VA 4 times and still got the DSC offer last year

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 470

If you retain the same PNR, and just change the date of your flight, then you retain the original "date of booking" and therefore retain the DSC eligibility.  This exemplifies the other problem with the Qantas call centres - untrained staff giving out incorrect information.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1437

If you change your flight more than once, quite common in a Covid world, you have to use a call centre. Go figure!!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 May 2019

Total posts 34

I recently had to wait 5 hours and 35 minutes for my call to Qantas to be answered. I do not want shallow apology, I want this disgraceful service (or lack there of), fixed.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 May 2019

Total posts 34

I recently waited 5 hours and 35 minutes on hold for Qantas. I do not want a hollow apology, I (like many others) just want the issue fixed.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jun 2021

Total posts 3

The wait times are only half the problem. When you eventually do get through to someone in one of their call centres (most likely an offshore call centre), the staff working there are not trained to be able to answer the query or fix the problem. The incompetence (through no fault of their own) isn't good enough after being on hold for so long, then to have new issues created with your booking. This is of course only if the phone call isn't disconnected first!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 97

I’ve never spoken to a Qantas call centre that was outside Australia. In fact, they often seem to be based in Tassie.

EK on the other hand… I’ve had to ask to be switched to another as I really found their accent to be too thick to understand.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 125

I dislike contradicting adults in public, but please note Mr. Joyce: this is not a new problem you have just encountered ".......at the moment". That is a patently false statement, and you probably know it too. Your customers have been kept waiting on for the phone for untold hours for at least a decade now (others contend it's been even longer!) If you can't even properly acknowledge the problem, how can we your loyal decades long customers expect that you will properly fix it?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2012

Total posts 215

Improving the functionality of the website to allow more transcactions to be completed on-line would help.

Also " at the moment"  doesn't cut it either. It's been dire for over 2 years. Never ever had my phone  (landline) go dead mid-conversation because the battery of the cordless handset ran down. Was three-quarters through a problem with the agent, but even though he knew my contact details he didn't bother to call me back to complete the matter. Still not done, but don't want to wait hours and hours again.

They gave up long ago with the line "we know your time is valuable.........." probably after copping abuse from irate customers.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Oct 2019

Total posts 17

At the end of the day there are heaps of people complaining about the wait times, but can anyone actually offer a reasonable short term solution?

Building a new website to make changes easier won't be done quickly and I don't think anyone wants Qantas to hire more incompetent people in Manila and South Africa. 

However, the flight credit page is archaic, multi-city bookings with flight credits are impossible and some basic functions should be added to the manage booking pages. Don't care how long it takes them to have a good website, but just fix it.

Also, a huge shoutout to the incredible staff at the VIP service team (Yes I am lucky enough to use them). They are always friendly and extremely helpful. With a special shoutout to Matt who is just brilliant. And even they had hour wait times over the DSC promotion.

01 Apr 2014

Total posts 107

Does anybody know if the South African Call Centre actually exists, or are they working from home?  After a 2 hour wait (as a Plat), I got through and there was a barking dog and crying baby in the background. I said to her that I was happy to wait a couple of minutes whilst she attended to the baby, and after some rattling around in the background the baby stopped and she came back on - status of the dog unclear  :-)

She was a bit confused on a simple request that couldn't be actioned online, and which I patiently walked her through. She appreciated the help, and said she wasn't quite sure on some of the terminology. I don't get angry at staff who are not properly trained, but it was a fairly ordinary experience for somebody who has spent hundreds of thousands on premium cabin flights over the years. You know it's bad when you have better experiences calling Telstra.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 254

More gaslighting from Qantas. No other reputable company treats customers with such contempt making then wait for eight hours.

The excuses and deflection of responsibility from Qantas belong in Canberra. Maybe Alan is angling for Scott Morrison’s job?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 May 2018

Total posts 52

I go back to a posting some time ago..

I had a flight credit.. tried to use it.. thought that i had it fixed then my internet crashed.. the on-line wasn't what I wonted. rang Qantas.. got a .human response 15 mins later.. didn't work out..rang back got a guy in Hobart who was able to sort it out.. came back on line.. and he rang me next night (his next shift) to see that things were right

I have had a lot of other sites who are a lot worse ..

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 368

Don’t blame Covid, QF closed its Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney call centres about 10 years back to cut costs and the Manila & South Africa fillers have been a diabolical shambles since. Not sure if Hobart still exists? Untrained contract staff, overwhelming wait times and disappointed customers have been the hallmark of QF call centres. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1087

Sadly Qantas' obsession with cost-cutting and outsourcing is now significantly affecting the customer experience.  As well as the disastrous state of their call centres, their baggage handling (now outsourced to Swissport) and Sydney terminal transfers (now outsourced to a private bus company not licensed to use airside roads) have also created significant delays and frustrations for customers.

Earlier this week, Channel 7 Melbourne had a news item where passengers were waiting between 2 and 5 hours for luggage to arrive in the arrivals hall. 

I have experienced the new SYD terminal transfer fiasco, laughingly referred to on the Qantas website as Seamless Lite.  The transfer from international to domestic involves a passenger queue of 100 metres waiting to drop luggage followed by a slow bus ride on the public roads around to T3.  The reverse is even worse with QF passengers being directed to the airport supplied half-hourly T-Bus service or paying the ridiculous $7 fare to use the train between terminals.

It is the responsibility of management to get the best value for the dollar when providing services but when this turns into cost-cutting with no view to how its affects customers, it must be considered a failure and dangerous to the medium to long-term revenue side of the business.

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 368

Compare call centre, terminal transfers and baggage delivery of Singapore Airlines in Changi and Qantas in Sydney. The difference is beggars belief!

11 Apr 2018

Total posts 12

Anyone else having issues with flight bookings not appearing in their trips? I paid for 3 bookings last week, 1 flight has landed in my app showing as paid, the other 2 (paid the same way and within 5 minutes of the first) are still 'pending payment'. Funds have been taken for all 3 flights, yet 2 have the pending payment status. These are domestic flights, for use over next 2 months, all eligible for DSC otherwise nothing special. I'd call again to follow up but the thought of another 2 hour wait kills me..

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 315

Are they really "low cost" call centres when they create this amount of negative publicity?

jro
jro

08 Apr 2022

Total posts 1

It is not only the long call centre times but complete breach of contract. I paid for flights via BPAY, in accordance with the requirements to make the payment prior to midnight on the day of booking. I waited for flights confirmations and called repeatedly. Despite being told the funds had been received and I would receive email confirmation the email I then received asked me to pay again, and when I ignored that thinking it was an automation error I received an email saying the booking had been cancelled. Despite this and attempts to contact QANTAS to remind them of basic principles of contract law, coupled with BPAY biller code rules, they have not reinstated my booking, and after four weeks they have still not returned my $3200 dollars, so I cannot even book an alternative flight. It is absolutely appalling that an organisation of this size cannot get this resolved, I have seen a number of similar complaints. How much money is QANTAS currently holding that they are not entitled to?

14 Aug 2019

Total posts 3

What mass email been a member since FF started no email re Call Centre - not even in trash probably where it belongs. 

Flights which were cancelled due to Covid - same travel  now costs over 45% more flying premium  economy to South Africa - not the war issue Qantas Management the issue. 

14 Aug 2019

Total posts 3

What email been a FF member since started no email in the in box or the trash box probably where it belongs.

Flight to South Africa cancelled due to covid the same flight travelling same class is now costing 45% more - its not the war it is so Qantas Management can continue  their lifestyle 

25 Jun 2018

Total posts 23

AJ says it takes 6 weeks to train call centre staff.   How long does it take to teach someone to speak & understand English?  A lot longer.   Bring back Australian located call centres.

Transfer some of AJ’s millions to staff training and call centre staff.   

04 Nov 2012

Total posts 221

What rubbish, the disgraceful Qantas call center has been like this for 2 years!.

One simple answer to this, sack Joyce, it's about time for him to leave and step down or go, he's ruined Qantas, he's one of the most highest paid CEO's here in Australia, and yet he cannot fix up a simple solution like this, how come other airlines can do it and Qantas can't 

08 Dec 2014

Total posts 3

I had to contact BA yesterday and got an answer to my question in a COUPLE OF MINUTES - because they have an online chat option. The experienced call centre people should be put onto chat because they can handle 4-5 queries in parallel instead of one idiot calling to do something they can do themselves on the website. So Qantas - put an online chat function on your website and put a call back option as well (maybe for P&P1?) and you will find a dramatic change in attitude.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 323

Moral of the story is don't fly Qantas  when you have other better quality carriers, both domestic and international.  Ditch the witch and make the switch.....

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 503

The real question is why admit that now when the service have been lacking and then burst wide open during COVID-19 and stripping of platinum class call centre personnel by moving the centre right when experience and patience matters in 2020. 

I suspect that the reason why this pseudo apology (the apology is meaningless when you know there is a problem for years made worse by cancelling of QF flights which they know that the pax have a right to full refund, and yet they make it hard for people to get that by demanding they have to call the overloaded system to get their entitlements) is now made is because the reaction to DSC DQP offer last week was not as expected and they realised its not because of lack of demand or confidence in domestic markets.

Considering the VA success in pricing cum status bonus offer in attracting rusted-on QF business travellers, it is possible they found out other than the excessive costs of j class in domestic QF (which they are reluctant to address) the other main gripe for QF loyalists jumping ship is the poor call centre service.

I think if the other competitor in the domestic market can get their act together (pretty quiet on the REx front in the ET lineup of recent feature articles), then AJ would move a lot faster than the lame timeline they have given as a tokenistic solution 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 85

I'm sorry this problem has been around from pre-Covid days. From several years back my Qantas call wait time record is 5 hour 19 minutes during a double status promotion. ( Has anyone waited longer ?) Other times it has often been over 2 and 3 hours. Thank God for speaker phones. This problem started ever since they shut down their Brisbane and Melbourne Call centres. Worse for them is they lose me on Urgent Business bookings when I have to fly internationally the next day or my trip requires a complex itinerary. Haven't experienced this problem on SQ, EK or EY.

18 Apr 2012

Total posts 1

“But that’s because our call centre, with these changes of borders, has gone from 5,000 calls a day to 15,000 calls a day.”

I remember as far as 2014, it was already 2+ hours waiting time. Especially their frequent flyer department. The reason for the long waiting time is not the volume of calls, it is because there are too many things you can't do online. To make it worse, Qantas is removing its service desks from airports now. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Oct 2012

Total posts 27

Fix your Website Qantas!  I've been trying to change an outgoing flight date online and even though I only tick the one flight to change it keeps putting up both flights on the next screen.   It is even recommending to charge me a premium for the flight I'm already coming back on...  I'm dreading calling the call centre as that appears to be the only way to solve this mess!  

21 Apr 2017

Total posts 36

From the woeful call centre to the ridiculous queues at check in. From the lame website to the gruff onboard service. From the weak Asian network to the absence of PEY on many international routes. It’s all a consequence of relentless cost cutting over many years and focus on the next quarterly results. Unfortunately the contrast with leading competitors couldn’t be starker.

Perhaps if Qantas engaged Travel Agents and not reduce their commissions to zero, they could have leaned on the Industry to support the high call volumes! Travel Agents have GDS systems that can easily be utilised to process changes etc, etc. BUT that’s only if the airline in question gives them the ability and authority to do so. I note that although Qantas removed commissions to zero, airfares have NOT reduce by the same amount…..says it all really. Qantas have got everyone scammed! Now Qantas are employing hundreds of people in call centre to service their customers so you need to ask yourself, what did it rearly cost the airlines to pay Travel Agents a commission? I doubt it would be more then the cost to employ and train up all these people….oh wait, should realise they will be “off shore” so paid pretty low anyway. Great to see The Australian Airline not supporting local jobs!

10 Apr 2022

Total posts 2

Currently at 7 hours 12 minutes....and waiting. All because Qantas keeps cancelling our flights or changing the schedule around without providing online options for an alternative. Ridiculous...Never again....Even Southwest (USA) has a better website for choosing alternative flights. Was a long time QF fan. Something has gone horribly wrong at this airline. Perhaps we can redirect all of the staff employed in marketing etc (the social justice, virtue signallers) and put them in roles where they can actually assist with running an airline.....

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 125

@Scotty Bee

Mate, I really feel your pain. 7 hours and 12 mins!! That is b****t ridiculous for a company that claims to be national treasure. It makes my 1 hour 50 min wait seem attractive in comparison. 17 years ago I took the decision to split my travels between VA and QF. In hindsight it was the right decision not to become too invested/dependent on just one airline. To give you an example of my standard interaction with VA: I would typically not have to wait more than 10 mins to be connected. By the time COVID hit, VA had taken 90% of my domestic travel budget. Until QF gets a management shakeup and/or customer service improves, I won't be shelling out more than 10% to them. And this is from a guy who's been flying QF regularly since age 4.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 225

Think the call centre needs to be -Match fit. 

Make the switch, who in their right mind would purchase tickets to have to then stay on a call centre wait time of over 7 hours. 

As others have said, the other domestic carriers are a better option. 

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

28 Jun 2019

Total posts 84

Another data point here. Not sure whether it's cathartic or makes it even more depressing. I can sum up my experience pretty briefly: I availed myself of Qantas' status match programme last year with enthusiasm, as I'd relocated back from Singapore a few years ago and being tied to Star Alliance wasn't getting me far back here. 

Fast forward to now: I'm sticking to that Star Alliance alliance for international travel and am now accidentally almost Platinum with VA for domestic travel because after being burned repeatedly by QF's so-called "Fly Flexible" policy and dozens of hours on hold to QF for basic tasks that should be but can't be done online, I gave up.

Throw in this latest gaslighting about customers not doing things online that they should, well, cherry on top. On that point they're right though: there certainly is plenty customers should be doing online. It just seems lost on QF management why they can't, and who's responsible.


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