Qantas shifts Platinum One support to new VIP Service Team

Qantas is closing down its dedicated Special Service Team for top frequent flyers.

By Chris Chamberlin, September 24 2020
Qantas shifts Platinum One support to new VIP Service Team

Qantas will pull down the shutters on its dedicated Special Service Team for Platinum One frequent flyers next week, with a new VIP Service Team taking over support duties for the airline's most valued passengers.

The move represents another step in the streamlining and reshaping of Qantas as the airline charts a course to survival in the post-pandemic world.

In addition to Platinum One members, the VIP department will also handle travel requests from members of the invitation-only Chairman’s Lounge, along with other designated high-status travellers, from a Hobart-based call centre.

Executive Traveller understands that unlike the Platinum One Special Service Team (SST) – which primarily assisted during delays, cancellations and other disruptions – the VIP Service Team is trained to handle a wider range of enquiries, without needing to transfer callers to other departments, as was sometimes the case with the SST.

The VIP Service Team is “a single point of contact for flight bookings, disruption management and special assistance,” a Qantas spokesperson confirms, “providing our top frequent flyers and Chairmans Lounge members with an improved customer experience."

Access to the dedicated Platinum One Special Service Team had previously been one of the primary benefits of Qantas Platinum One status, and was often cited by members as one of the key reasons these travellers would strive to maintain their tier each year.

Help when it matters most

One of the foremast tasks of Qantas' Platinum One support team is to smooth out the inevitable bumps experienced by very frequent flyers.

“They’ve been brilliant in the case of irregular operations,” recounts NSW medical professional Dr Fiona Downes, a long-time Platinum One member.

“A few years ago in Dubai they telephoned me with an update about a very delayed departure, and proactively re-booked me on a separate domestic flight the next day at London, as I’d have missed the last flight. They then arranged the First Host at London to meet me on arrival, advise of the new arrangements and a hotel booking they’d made.”

Michael Corrigan, a Brisbane-based HR specialist with Platinum Employee Relations who has held Platinum One status for the past seven years, tells Executive Traveller that the team works wonders in facilitating tight domestic connections.

“Before COVID I regularly flew Melbourne-Brisbane-Townsville and return, and they were always tight connections.”

“Often the first sector would run late, ahead of the afternoon departure with a connection to the last flight to Townsville from Brisbane,” Corrigan says.

“The number of times the Platinum One team contacted me in the lounge to advise my connection would be held was invaluable, because I also had flight the next morning to Palm Island for a client meeting.”

“I’ve also had flights on the ‘triangle’ get cancelled and the Platinum One team try their utmost to move you to the next flight, despite those flights being oversold. The longest I have waited for a reconnection on a cancelled Sydney-Melbourne or Melbourne-Sydney flight was 45 minutes.”

Downes is hopeful the VIP Service Team can deliver on Qantas’ promise of handling more booking-related issues with a single call.

“It was frustrating sometimes to call the Platinum One line to ask for changes to reservations or to have an award seat released, and they’d patch the call through to the regular team,” she tells Executive Traveller.

“If the new VIP Service Team can do all of that whilst still maintaining the same personal touch and proactive management during disruptions, that will be a great relief.”

Final call for the Special Service Team

Executive Traveller understands that all staff at the Canberra-based Special Service Team have either been stood down since April or were repeatedly stood up for a week and then stood back down for 2-3 weeks, on a rotational basis.

Qantas says that SST staff have been offered redeployment to other parts of the business, but a number are expected to take redundancy payments – which could also mean losing the highly-valued personal connection that many SST members enjoyed with Platinum One frequent flyers.

The Special Service Team had been comprised of staff who responded to requests from travellers and proactively assisted during disruptions, as well as having a dedicated worker charged with distributing invitations to functions and special events.

Over the years, these included major sporting outings and cocktail events, as well as flight simulator sessions for the airline’s crème de la crème cardholders.

It remains to be seen whether the new VIP Service Team will handle ‘operational upgrades’ for high-tiered travellers in the same way as the Special Service Team had previously.

On oversold flights, some Platinum One members had become accustomed to the occasional ‘magic beep’ at the boarding gate, with their economy class seat swapped for business class, and an “Enjoy your flight – Platinum One team” note appended to their boarding pass.

Also read: Best Qantas Platinum One perks for domestic travellers

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

05 May 2016

Total posts 587

If flights are oversold one would expect Chairman's Lounge and Platinum One flyers to continue to be prioritised for free upgrades. These upgrades tend to go to solo travellers.

When I was a platinum member on one occasion I received a free upgrade for a domestic flight which was a very welcome surprise so on rare occasions it can happen for Platinum as well.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1234

P1 maybe, certainly not CL.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 774

My old boss was CL and it was rare that she wasn't upgraded on domestic flights.

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 165

It’s probably more common than you think. It was happening to me quite regularly at one point, probably one in ten flights (as a Platinum, not P1). I even had two on one day - day trip to Sydney and got upgraded in both directions!

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 171

Ok, I will bite and ask the stupid question:

Not a chairman lounge member but I presume this new VIPST is really new new not a pre existing service for CL members. Why then does QF want to move the call centre to Hobart, and then train up a new group of people to do this, whereas they can keep the existing SST in Canberra and train them up for new services while hiring more staff there. Furthermore I would have thought some of this can be done working at home so even if recruitment cannot attract enough people to come to work in Canberra, casual staff can be found across capital cities interstate. Good customer service is hard to find and surely the SST would have been almost on first name basis (if they are ever allowed to) with some of the super duper P1 members

Unless it’s another cunning plan in response to a dangling Cash incentives carrot by the Tassie govt to make that move, while cutting staff costs with newly recruited tassie personnel at the bottom salary rug?

Perhaps I am just getting too cynical

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 769

Tasmanian state Government has always had a thing for subsidising contact centres, it increses employment for people that don't have/need many professional skills. Vodafone had a call centre in Kingston even before having any stores in Tasmania. CBR people would be more expensive, and Hobart would have a lot of unemployed and experienced contact centre folk willing to work for not-Canberra money. 

gsx
gsx

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Aug 2015

Total posts 28

Such bad news, I will really miss the SST they have been amazing when I have needed them over the past 7 years. 

I agree they could have beefed up the Canberra team to be the vip team. Great people again made redundant by cost cutting. 

I wish them all the best and thanks for the great service. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 353

Cost cutting or survival at this point?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jan 2015

Total posts 62

I had a fantastic experience with them today. I called there Plat one number spoke to someone in Hobart and we had a bit of a chat about how things are in Melbourne. I had 3 international flights Nov, Dec and Jan that have now cancelled and he was great. Ran me through the options and the offers for taking travel card credits. All done in 10 minutes. 

igl
igl

18 Oct 2015

Total posts 3

I am P1 and a few times spoke to the dedicated team. When they called me it was for a specific reason about a flight, etc. They always proactively sorted out an impending problem to smooth over connections or delays. However when I called them a few times about a booking they couldn’t help and referred me to reservations. Given they were a dedicated team for P1, I was surprised they couldn’t do everything for me. So this change appears to be a step up rather than a downgrade of service. 

I have spoken many times over the years to the Hobart call centre and I can only say that I have the highest praise for their helpfulness and professionalism. So I think this is a good move.

As for upgrades, my wife and I are both P1 in our own right and have had a number of times been upgraded to First from Business when we traveled together and independently. Usually this was at check in or in the lounge. Surprise upgrades do occur both international and domestic.

We have been on the ground since March being Melbourne based. P1 may be lost soon ... 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 61

Had excellent service from the new team as a P1 regarding a refund enquiry

Above and beyond the call of duty

25 Sep 2020

Total posts 1

The issue with the P1 Team was that it was set up with a huge cost base with high wages. They needed to set it up with people on much lower money which is what they’ve done. Most of the P1 team as it was were completely capable of doing reservations functions. So them scrapping the team as it was looks purely about money. I find it amusing they’re trying to sell it as even better for the customers, it won’t. There was a lot of customer relationships built and a lot of personal care provided by the staff. Highly unlikely these call centres will be capable of that.  With regard to upgrades, the upgrades used to be a manual process but has now an automated system unless there’s some reason to manually intervene such as over sale or customer recovery.   

It will definitely be an adjustment for the P1 customers but at least they won’t be left with nothing. But QF are kidding themselves that they think this is better for their highest spenders.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 114

You get what you pay for with services such as this. If QF want to maintain a premium airline post-Covid, they should invest in the Hobart call centre and close down the ones they have in Manila and South Africa. At the same time, they should reduce waiting times on the phone. 

The Hobart call centre are always professional, empathetic and helpful. The offshore centres are useless (especially South Africa), to the extent if I get put through to them I just hang up and call back another time. 

SMM
SMM

01 Feb 2013

Total posts 14

At the moment it is a downgraded service only being open 7am - 11pm rather than being able to get urgent assistance when it is required. Having to ring the main QF number and 'hope' that you are routed to the VIP team is not as good as a dedicated number. I agree that the SS Team staff were awesome and it is a shame to loose their expertise, compassion, empathy and friendship. Considering it is the P1 FF that they need to keep on board I would hope the standard of service and ability to fix issues remains.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 171

I would think they should have kept a dedicated number for the VIP service as well.

It’s not as if someone unworthy can use the VIP service without the right QFF number and furthermore a general number can get overwhelmed with just one or two flight cancellation 

SMM
SMM

01 Feb 2013

Total posts 14

And when there are flight issues the normal number is overwhelmed.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Oct 2019

Total posts 10

my page still comes up with the old team phone number as well as the vip email, have you tried calling that number?

12 Jul 2017

Total posts 7

It will be interesting to see if it applies to very frequent flyers in economy or just those more well heeled who fly further forward and are able to build up higher status. 

SMM
SMM

01 Feb 2013

Total posts 14

I obtain P1 and have since inception with one trip to Europe, one to Asia and the rest high volume economy in Australia. I average one flight every 3.7 days so its about status obtained regardless of how you get there.


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