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Qantas will reveal its revamped domestic business class service on Thursday, November 18th.CEO Alan Joyce will launch the beefed-up business program at a media event being held at the Qantas Business Lounge of Sydney’s domestic airport.The press conference will preview the airline’s all-new business-class seating, an overhaul of domestic lounges and other inducements for passengers at the pointy end of the plane.Qantas is reportedly aiming to raise the standard of its domestic business-class offering to more closely match that of international flights, and is tipped to include a menu designed by Sydney-based chef Neil Perry.While the refit isn’t expected to reach the market until early next year, this advance launch is clearly a pre-emptive shot across the bow of Virgin Blue, which is seeking to challenge Qantas’ domestic dominance with its own push to snare corporate passengers.Virgin Blue CEO John Borghetti has set a target of doubling his share of the business-class market to 20 percent by introducing new seats, lounges and other premium services. (Ironically, it was in his previous role as Qantas executive general manager that Borghetti spearheaded a revamp of Qantas’ first and business-class lounges.)“We are chasing a share of the lucrative business market” says Virgin Blue’s Executive General Manager Commercial, Liz Savage.Virgin Blue is eager to move away from its roots as a budget-based airline and boost its role into that of Australia’s second ‘full service’ carrier, at the same time edging away from Qantas’ cut-price sibling Jetstar at the lower end of the market.
Qantas’ strategy is less about attracting new customers than preventing leakage from its corporate accounts over to Virgin Blue, in an effort to retain its 90 percent slice of Australia’s business travel market.
However, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the overhaul “isn’t a defensive strategy; it’s about setting the pace to keep our customers. It’s about raising the bar for what business travellers can expect.”
Qantas will couple the business-class upgrade to its Next-Generation Check-in facility which will debut at Sydney domestic airport next week.
The system is intended to streamline the check-in of both passengers and luggage using newly-issued microchipped Qantas cards and electronic bag tags.
The cards will store each passenger’s current booking details and double as a digital boarding pass. This is partnered with an electronic bag tag that automatically links customers’ luggage with their flight details when they use the automated bag drop facilities.
Next-Generation Check-in will be introduced at Melbourne Airport in early 2011, followed by Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra around the middle of the year. Perth already has Next-Generation Check-in, as the service was trialled there from July of this year.
Some Platinum and Gold Frequent Flyers have already received their cards in recent weeks.