Qantas pilot exposes behind-the-scenes airport chaos

An experienced Qantas pilot has spoken up about the chaos behind the scenes as passengers become increasingly frustrated with sudden flight delays and cancellations.

The pilot, speaking under the pseudonym Tom, told the ABC he quickly realized things were not the same when he returned to flying after the pandemic.

“There is no one to talk to and when you go to work you are basically on your own. It’s like we’re running a virtual airline,” he said. “In my three decades with Qantas I’ve never seen anything like it.”

He used the example of an international flight earlier this year where he got to the plane and found there was no drinking water on-board and the load sheet had not been finalized.

Qantas plane.
“It feels like a rudderless ship at the moment,” the Qantas pilot revealed.
James D. Morgan/Getty Images

The load sheet has weight and balance data, which enables the pilot to determine that the aircraft’s load and its distribution throughout the aircraft.

After the passengers had boarded, Tom let them know they were waiting on a final piece of paperwork and then they would get underway.

More time passed and there was no load sheet. When he tried contacting an employee over radio whose job it was to answer pilots’ queries, there was no answer.

Qantas pilot.
Qantas pilots have been plagued with missing and delayed paperwork, and unanswered queries.
David Gray#JM/Getty Images

He then received an unexpected call from an engineer, who informed him another 15 containers just turned up with bags to be loaded.

Then he was told the water delivery team had run out of potable water and could not tell Tom when it would arrive.

The passengers sat in their seats ready for takeoff.

“It feels like a rudderless ship at the moment,” Tom told the ABC.

“Keeping to departure times has always been sacred in the airline industry. In the past we would be kept informed – you will be 10 minutes late, 15 minutes late. Now you must pursue the information yourself and they may, or may not, know the answer.”

Qantas flights stuff-up

Travelers wait in a departure lounge.
Qantas had more than one in three flights delayed in June.
Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Many airline “stuff-ups” have emerged recently, with lost baggage a big issue, but a young family may have copped the worst one yet.

Stephanie and Andrew Braham were left “seething” at Qantas after realizing the airline had rebooked their 13-month-old daughter onto a different flight from them in the middle of their family holiday.

The couple said they had to spend 20 hours on hold to fix the issue while on a trip through Europe with their baby daughter.

Their flight home to Australia was cancelled, meaning they had to be rebooked onto a different flight. Their daughter was booked onto a different plane.

“They said they hadn’t done anything wrong because they did book her a ticket. Initially, they denied any liability. That’s Qantas,” Ms. Braham told the Today Show.

“We spent 20 hours 47 minutes and 13 seconds on the phone to Qantas over a 24-hour period, and over 55 separate phone calls, before they finally agreed to book us on new flights home.”

The family were also forced to pay up for another two weeks of accommodation in Rome, with their flights pushed back by 12 days.

The airline blamed a “back-end administrative error” and told media it “sincerely apologizes” to the family and committed to reimburse the Brahams for the cost of their additional accommodation.

Unions slam executive bonuses

Earlier this week, unions slammed Qantas for handing out millions of dollars in bonuses to executives while the airline is plagued by flight cancellations, delays and baggage losses.

In a statement to the ASX in June, the company announced it would reward four executives with shares worth more than $4million AUD despite the ongoing commuter chaos.

Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers’ Association federal secretary Steve Purvinas said the executives didn’t deserve bonuses after Qantas’s poor performance.

“The airline is being destroyed by these people,” he said.

“They should not be receiving a bonus at all. They should be sacked.”

A Qantas spokesperson defended the bonuses and noted non-executive staff will receive bonuses with similar conditions.

Reliable reputation in ruins

Aviation analytics site OAG revealed Qantas had more than one in three flights delayed in June. It ranked the national airline 92nd out of 130 global airlines for on-time performance.

Federal government data shows Qantas was one of the worst airlines for on-time performance domestically in June.

Qantas recorded the highest percentage of cancellations (at 8.1 per cent) during the month.

It came second last for on-time arrivals.

Rex Airlines recorded 80 per cent for on-time arrivals, Virgin Australia recorded 62.4 per cent, followed by QantasLink at 59.6 per cent and Jetstar at 59.5 per cent.

Qantas recorded 59.1 per cent, with only Virgin Australia Regional Airlines worse at 51.3 per cent.