Has Qantas got its mojo back?

It was almost a year ago, at a press event to mark Qantas's resumption of flights to the Gold Coast, that Qantas Domestic CEO Lyall Strambi made the aside that "I get a real sense that Qantas is getting its mojo back".

That throw-away line struck me then and has stuck with me since, as the "Red Roo" has slowly but steadily battled its way back from "beleaguered airline" status.

Perhaps any measurement based on mojo is as nebulous as "the vibe" of the Australian Constitution, as conjectured in The Castle.

But like most Australian business travellers I take plenty of Qantas flights, and over the past year I've noticed a definite lift across the board.

And while the most recent Roy Morgan Air Travel Survey ranked Virgin Australia ahead of Qantas in clocking how satisfied business travellers are with each airline – Virgin sits at 86 per cent, Qantas at 82 per cent – the rolling results show Qantas has been on the up since February this year and enjoys its highest satisfaction rating since the middle of 2012.

Two years back, I'd have marked my Qantas report card with a C. "Has potential, but also much room for improvement", I'd have written. "Needs to try harder."

Now I'd hand the airline a B+ and and add a smiley stamp for good measure.

Here are some of the key areas where I consider Qantas has gotten back into its stride.


Lounging around

Starting on the ground, as all journeys do, Qantas has been busy buffing up its airport lounges.

That's important to business travellers because these lounges are our haven for grabbing a meal, a drink and a slice of time to get some work done before the flight.

You've only got to sample a few American airport lounges – or even some European ones, for that matter – to appreciate that we've got it good in the lounge stakes.

From the island dining options for breakfast and dinner at the domestic Qantas Business Lounges to the new Qantas Singapore Lounge, which is perhaps the world's best business class lounge outside an airline's home turf, I'd rate Qantas as a world-class player in the lounge stakes and winning the all-important ground game.

Up in the air

The shuffle of air commuters between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane accounts for the bulk of Australia's domestic business travel, and it remains much of a muchness.

(I honestly wonder if any airline needs to do more than Qantas or Virgin are already doing for flights which are often under two hours.)

The stakes are higher on the popular east-west route.

Virgin Australia still has the edge thanks to the spacious international-grade business class seats on its coast-to-coast Airbus A330s, but Qantas's all-new Business Suites look to be a game-changer.

These are fully lie-flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration so that every passenger has direct access to the aisle.

Look for plenty of room to work or sleep, a 16-inch video screen and ample storage space for your inflight knick-knacks when these seats debut late next year.

They'll also be appearing on international A330 flights to Asia, such as Singapore, Hong Kong (from Melbourne and Brisbane), Shanghai, Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila.

And while Virgin Australia's seat gives it a year's head start on Qantas in the transcontinental turf war, Qantas has enlisted Neil Perry to upgrade its in-flight meals on east-west flights, and the results are exceptional. This is Australia's best in-flight grub.

Card sharp

A few week's back I detailed the new prepaid travel money cards that Qantas and Virgin Australia are now issuing to their frequent flyers.

While the basics of these cards are similar, it turns out that the Qantas Cash card is the better of the two.

The exchange rates are surprisingly reasonable, with no fee to load money onto the card and shift it into any of eight foreign currency wallets.

Apart from a painful login system for the online Qantas Cash website – one which asks you to recall three specific characters from your password instead of typing the whole thing in – it's a neat fit for the overseas traveller.

Attitude to match altitude

More subtle but no less welcome, across all my domestic and international flights I'm sensing a sharper attitude from the Qantas cabin crew. It's more consistent, and more consistently good.

Frequent flyers know that regardless of how well everything else in the chain rates, service is where it can all fall apart.

And while I've rarely experienced bad service with Qantas, something has seen the standard of service step up a notch.

It's hard to define. Maybe it does come down to that elusive "mojo".

But from my perspective, Qantas isn't quite the punching bag it used to be. Instead, it's now punching closer to its fighting weight. And that's got to be good thing for all travellers.

David Flynn is a business travel expert, editor of Australian Business Traveller and an independent observer of the Australian aviation industry. He has travelled as a guest of Qantas in the past, as well as numerous other airlines.


Twitter: @AusBT