I really like Qantas. They get a lot right. However I get the impression that when they get things wrong, they don’t help themselves.
As part of my trip to Australia, I was travelling back on a Lufthansa ticket with a sector operated by Qantas from Melbourne in first class. That then connected in Singapore with Lufthansa back to Frankfurt. After that, I had another separate booking with Lufthansa back to London.
Oneworld and Star Alliance have different baggage policies. On the whole, oneworld carriers won’t through check bags between different bookings, where as Star Alliance will. Lufthansa are one of those carriers who not only are happy to, but their computer systems automatically detect and will seamlessly issue tags across multiple non-contiguous bookings.
So on my trip, everything started so well as I was called roughly 24 hours before my flight by the Qantas concierge asking if I’d like to book a massage at the spa in Melbourne before my flight (which I did).
Roll on 24 hours later and I rolled up to the first class check-in area and explained the situation. I basically got told a flat no. Theoretically IATA has policies that deal with this situation – they have a concept known as the ‘Most Significant Carrier’ (MSC). This says:
‘Where the one or more published baggage provisions differ between participating carriers, apply any common provisions and where provisions differ, the published baggage provisions of the Most Significant Carrier (MSC).’
Basically this means that Lufthansa’s rules should apply. However after much too’ing and fro’ing, they agreed that technically they could check my bags through to the second Lufthansa flight, but they wouldn’t for policy reasons. And that was that.
A smidge grumpy, I wandered through security and found the first class lounge. It was pretty busy with most seats taken. Not only was there my flight, but there were also departures to Los Angeles plus it was peak season.
However, that said, I chilled out with a rather lovely breakfast, plus a fantastic hot stone massage in their travel spa. As the lounge was pretty busy, I decided not to take any photos, but it was up to the typical Qantas First Class lounge standards.
The boarding process was a bit of a mess though. There was meant to be a first class host but I decided I wanted to head over to the gate a little early. Boarding seemed to be on the lower level and the escalator down was backed up with people. I found another lift which ended up going back up to the lounge level, before heading back down where I’d started and then down to the boarding level. However once at the gate itself, there was a first class agent with no queue and it was straight on to the A380.
Qantas have a total of twelve A380s in their fleet which are the only aircraft to have first class. They’re outfitted with fourteen seats in a 1-1-1 configuration on the lower deck of the aircraft. I’ve been lucky enough to fly them before a few years ago, from Dallas to Sydney, one of the longest flights in the world. The trip up to Singapore was a lot shorter, at roughly eight hours.
Qantas are also in the process of refitting their A380s with an updated first class cabin, and entirely new business class with all aisle access, and improved premium economy and economy seats. At the time of writing this, they’ve only done three of the twelve aircraft and my flight was one of the un-refurbished ones.
To be perfectly honest, it did show. I was in 1A and it did seem quite worn in places with scuff marks evident across lots of the surfaces. The in-flight entertainment seemed a bit old and the seat controls came across as a little dated and clunky.
The service onboard however more than made up for it.
I had two crew members looking after me, and both of them were fantastic. I may be generalising a little but, but unlike the Asian carriers who whilst also excellent are perhaps somewhat demure, the Qantas crew on my flight were real human beings who were more than happy to have a bit of a laugh and joke with me.
The service started as is almost obligatory with a glass of champagne and some olives and nuts.
In terms of the other amenities, pyjamas (which I didn’t end up using as it was a daytime flight) and a nice washbag were handed out. The headphones were a rather disappointing non-branded type. The in-flight entertainment was also quite old but had a reasonable selection. The moving map also seemed to be non-customisable.
After take-off, I switched to a G&T which came with some little canapés.
Lunch was served shortly afterwards.
I opted for the chicken skewers, the spinach soup and beef fillet for main course. They were all really good, but with the beef a little too cooked for my taste. I also managed to try the cheese and then the flourless chocolate cake for dessert.
I watched movies for a few hours and before long we were 90 minutes out from Singapore. I was still pretty stuffed by this point, but had to try their signature steak sandwich which was pretty excellent.
With that, we were shortly descending into Changi pulling up to the gate pretty much on time.
After I landed in Changi, I wandered from terminal 1 over to the Lufthansa transfer desk and explained the situation with my bags to one of the staff, giving her my flight details and itinerary. She asked me to take a seat and made a few calls.
After about ten minutes she returned to me with new boarding passes in the customary first class ticket jacket, and new bag tags. “Your bags have been manually tagged to London, Mr. Cohen, so sorry for the inconvenience”.
Qantas 0. Lufthansa 1.
Of the two Lufthansa flights, my Singapore Airlines sector and this, Qantas was definitely the weakest. Whilst the crew were amazing, the state of the seat and the not quite so excellent food let it down.
Plus the atrocious service on the ground at Melbourne.
I followed up with Qantas Customer Relations who basically parroted the same spiel that the ground staff did, and even claimed that they don’t have the capability to check bags to Lufthansa at all.
Qantas also don’t take part in any alternative dispute resolution schemes in the UK either, so I now have an open complaint to the UK Civil Aviation Authority about their failure to adhere to IATA protocols.
To be clear, I’m definitely not after any compensation from them. I’m simply after someone to take a proper look into the matter, and an apology from them not to follow IATA guidelines. I’ll write another blog post as and when I get something back from the UK CAA.
Oh and the Lufthansa First Class ground services at Changi are pretty bloody brilliant.