EXCLUSIVE | Qantas could begin charging passengers for meals, movies and even a single piece of checked luggage under a new pricing model being considered by the airline.
The scheme would be partnered to a 'basic economy' fare similar to those recently introduced by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand and US airlines American, Delta and United.
This would entitle passengers to an economy class seat and, well, pretty much nothing else unless they pay extra for it.
Qantas has floated the concept in a survey sent out this week to its select Qantas Advisory Panel, an invitation-only group of frequent flyers regularly polled to assess the airline's future plans.
Members are being asked for their thoughts on "pay as you use Qantas flights between Australia and New Zealand", indicating the busy and highly competitive trans-Tasman routes as a likely launch pad for what has often been a contentious model when adopted by other airlines.
"By 'pay as you use' we mean the ability to purchase a base fare, then add on items such as baggage, food & beverage, in-flight entertainment (and) seat choice for an additional cost – only as you require them", the survey elaborates.
Such a move would represent a sharp about-face for Qantas, which has often made a selling point of its full-service promise that every passenger on every fare gets a meal and checked baggage.
Approached by Australian Business Traveller for comment, a Qantas spokesperson offered this expected boilerplate text :"We regularly conduct surveys with our Advisory Panel, asking for their feedback on a range of topics and ideas. We are always looking at ways to improve the customer experience, however have no plans to introduce this at this stage."
Updated 25/5/18: Qantas has now issued a follow-up statement which appears to rule out the buy-on-board approach, saying "we have no intention on unbundling our fares."
Cheap seats and paid-for-eats across the pond?
The impending split between former partners Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand will turn the trans-Tasman market into a three-cornered battle in which Qantas is eager to gain the advantage.
Introducing a seat-only economy fare between Australia and New Zealand would bring Qantas closer to Air New Zealand's Seats to Suit strategy, which offers three packages – Seat, Seat + Bag and The Works – with varying options.
This starts with a basic Seat fare which doesn't include checked baggage, inflight movies or meals, with the latter available from a 'buy on board' menu using a credit card or prepaid voucher.
Air New Zealand also sells a Works Deluxe package on its all-economy Airbus A320 jets, which acts as a 'pseudo-business class' offering similar to EuroBusiness where passengers get the full bundle plus perks such as an empty seat next to them, an extra free checked bag plus priority check-in, boarding and bag handling.
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