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.