Flight safety

5 01 2013


photo credit: licensed under Creative Commons from Beverly & Pack


photo credit: licensed under Creative Commons from Beverly & Pack

One of my favourite books, Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (a trilogy in five parts) has its hero travelling the universe interminably seeking….who knows what. Well he thinks he is seeking the earth in some parallel universe – it has been destroyed in his own universe. Anyway, this is actually beside the point.

Because of his excessive travel and excessive boredom, and because he was trapped on a spaceship which was put in suspended animation while they awaited a delivery of moist towelettes so they could take-off, when his flight is actually involved in an emergency, he is the only one who survives because he is the only one who has actually listened to the safety instructions.

Flying with children who are somewhat nervous brought this to mind. They are the only ones on the flight who listen to the stewards doing the emergency instructions, and are the only ones reading the evacuation and emergency procedures card.

Airline staff are one of those stereotypes that often is the butt of comedy jokes. And none-so-more that the emergency procedures which is, after all, the most distinctive thing about them from the viewpoint of the flying public.

Who has not seen a hilarious skit where the stewards turn the safety presentation into a lesson on bondage? Oh – what? only me? Ah well. It stayed with me.

Australian comedian Adam Hills tells a story about a hostie who had integrated some Auslan sign language (Australian sign language for hearing impaired) into the safety presentation. Only in Australia is there sign language for “Fuck you, Fuck youse all” (youse being plural of you, for those unfamiliar with vernacular bogan). I won’t spoil the joke – it can be viewed here.

However, airlines are starting to get in on the joke. Air New Zealand has released this Hobbit inspired safety video. While it is a hit on Youtube, I presume it is also shown on flights. While the safety details are pretty much the same as any other safety video, one would have to be more concerned about finding an orc, or Gollum sitting alongside or behind you….and there are no suggestions how to deal with unpleasant fellow-passengers. Also notable, two of Tolkien’s grandsons make guest appearances, as does Director Peter Jackson. This isnt Air New Zealand’s first effort – a previous safety video (view here) features stewards and passengers wearing…..body paint!

Of course other airlines have tried to make the safety videos mire interesting, notably….Thomson Airlines (featuring small children, this video from Sri Lankan Airlines is animated, as is this offering from Virgin Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Cebu Pacific’s video featuring a choreographed presentation, which must surely make the routine more entertaining for staff, as well as passengers.

Fly safe!

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The saga of #qantasluxury

23 11 2011

photo credit Simon sees

I am always fascinated by how new media (Facebook, Twitter etc) is driving old media (newspapers, television and radio news) these days. And none has been as entertaining as the saga of the Qantas Luxury hashtag. This has been a massive PR fail for Qantas. And I love a good PR Fail. No-one does a PR fail on the same scale as Qantas.

A quick recap for those who may have been living under a rock over the past few months.

Qantas is in dispute with a number of unions over wage and job security negotiations. Basically the Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says that for Qantas to be competitive in the international marketplace they need to take jobs off-shore and they need wage rates that are more like those in other countries (specifically Asian countries) rather than the Australian wage rates currently enjoyed by staff. He may be right, but awarding himself a 71% pay rise (no that is not a typo) to a package of around $5million whilst crying poor for the airline was not a great PR move.

A quote from Twitter:
Captain PIREP: #qantasluxury @QantasAirways – the 5 Million Dollar Man is the luxury QANTAS can not afford. http://www.pirep.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=13033&start=45

However, a few days after receiving the pay rise he then unexpectedly grounded the entire airline citing “safety reasons”. National bad press aimed at the annoyance caused by staff and unions became instead worldwide condemnation in international media aimed at Qantas. Hard to see a win here. Rumours circulated that Qantas’ cheaper sister airline, Jetstar, had received a memo three days earlier informing them that this was going to happen. This did not improve the press.

As a result of the shut-down, the Australian Government decided to step in and refer the industrial dispute to the Industrial Relations Commission for resolution, demanding that Qantas get its planes back in the air. After seeking clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority (which wanted assurances that the airline which formerly cited safety concerns, was now miraculously OK to fly), they were back in business – CEO Alan Joyce blamed the unions for the inconvenience, an excuse which seemed like avoiding an apology. The Industrial Relations Commission gave the parties 21 days to find a resolution and outlawed any further strikes and industrial action by the staff and unions. Presumably that was the outcome Alan Joyce had been seeking in his high-price game of brinkmanship. (Meanwhile in the US, a Harvard University student called Alan Joyce was inundated by tweets from irate Qantas passengers, and dealt with them with humour and patience. Qantas could learn something here.)

My previous posting on this saga is here.

So now for the update. Unsurprisingly, they did not manage to come to an agreement within 21 days, and the dispute is back in front of the Industrial Relations Commission who will make a decision. Potentially not a win for either party.

However, Qantas, realising it has created its own massively negative PR campaign, has taken steps to improve its image in Twitter-land. It launched a competition using the hashtag “Qantasluxury””

QantasAirways: To enter tell us ‘What is your dream luxury inflight experience? (Be creative!) Answer must include #QantasLuxury. TCs http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/twitter-a-touch-of-qantas-luxury-terms/au/en

Prizes were Qantas PJs and a toothbrush. (Note to Qantas – Singapore Airlines give away toothbrushes and bedsocks with every flight) This less than a month after they inconvenienced passengers all over the world.

Hmmmm…..well, tweeters didn’t really need to be encouraged to be creative! This is now the number one trending hashtag in Australia, and not in the way Qantas had hoped. Tweeters have used their creativity and come up with a remarkably wide range of mocking tweets, videos, articles and other ephemera, as well as airing every gripe, complaint and annoyance they may have ever had about Qantas.

John Dean : I want some tips from the social media coordinator of Qantas because that #QantasLuxury tag is booming.

Tommy__MTommy :RT @prebenvision: #QantasLuxury using a platform they have absolutely no knowledge of for promotional purposes and have it blow up in…

One of the most amusing (and popular) is this one:

And of course, the massive FAIL of the #Qantasluxury campaign has reached mainstream media. Part of the issue (apart from the pathetic prizes, lack of acknowledgement about recent issues and the impact they have had on their customers) is the timing. Again, this was pulled out within days of the Qantas pay dispute being referred back to the Industrial Relations tribunal, just over three weeks after they decided to ground the airline worldwide without giving passengers any notice. Someone at Qantas has a seriously poor sense of timing.

Danae Sinclair :#qantasluxury doesn’t look like a hash tag #fail to me – too much amusement & discussion to be considered anything but a #win – for us.

71% payrise for CEO = entire airline grounded worldwide inconveniencing millions of passengers
failure to reach agreement with unions and referred back to Industrial Relations Tribunal = competition talking about the “luxury” of Qantas with (trivial) PJs as a prize.

Is there any way to pull this one back from the brink? Is there some way for Qantas to fix this? The hashtag is out there now and can’t be retrieved. It has a life of its own, being shared among Tweeters who are keeping it going. Would having a decent prize help? Would some sort of apology help? Would the resolution of the pay dispute (without screwing the Australian workers) help?

Maybe something like Air New Zealand’s flashmob safety demonstration could help:

Note to Qantas – Air New Zealand were CREATIVE, AMUSING, SELF-MOCKING……and they gave away FLIGHTS! There are a whole series of these videos on their Youtube channel.

So, back to Qantas. Maybe only time will help. But they need some better PR advice.

Newsflash: maybe this is the solution Qantas are looking for – a new scandal not involving them:
klixplus (Adam McKinnon) : Did Allan Joyce pay Kyle Sandilands to take some twitter heat off #QantasLuxury ? If he did it maybe his first smart move for Qantas!

UPDATE: 23/11/11 1751: Police have suspended investigations into alleged death threats against Qantas Management. Alan Joyce and other senior Qantas management claimed that they had death threats made against them in May this year, and again in October. Mr Joyce alleged this was related to the wage dispute, saying, “Those who are in the business of using threats, violence and intimidation to obtain their industrial ends should know this: these tactics are cowardly and deplorable. They will not work. Anyone who is caught will face the full consequences.”

Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon said the union had believed the decision was a stunt from the beginning and claimed the police decision confirmed this. “It is a disgraceful diversion of police resources,” he said. “The truth is now out. The next issue is for the truth to come out on the dodgy claim that Alan Joyce only decided to shut down the aviation industry on October 29. That’s where the real investigation is needed.”

For the full story, click here.





International airlines: Compare and contrast.

8 11 2011

photo credit Sean MacEntee

Over the last almost three decades I have managed to get in a little bit of travelling. Not a lot. Not nearly enough, but some.

This is my opinion and experience of the various airlines we have flown internationally with, keeping in mind that some of these assessments date back to the mid-1980s.

1985: British Airways. I flew from Australia to London via Singapore and Bahrain, and return. Five minutes out of Perth I spilled my rum and coke (I was young, I didn’t know better than to mix spirits with coke), which wasn’t replaced. Bahrain was a refuelling stop at which we were disembarked to walk up and down the airport in front of the armed guards, then frisked before returning to the plane. (Female passengers were frisked by a female officer out of sight of the men.) My first flight – sad I know. Generally OK.

1994: Air New Zealand, to New Zealand and back. Upgraded courtesy of a friend’s frequent flyer points and sat in first class on the way back. Poached salmon, champagne from a real glass, with real china and cutlery. Fabulous!

Dumping fuel into the Indian Ocean - the beginning of a saga

1995: Qantas, Australia to Harare. Return journey via Johannesburg. Halfway across the Indian Ocean we had an engine failure. The pilot dumped fuel into the ocean (I have a photo of it somewhere) and turned back to Perth, where we sat on the tarmac waiting for a new engine to be sourced. For nineteen hours. In our airplane seats. The cricket was in Perth and apparently every hotel room was booked. Eventually they found somewhere and bussed us an hour out of town so we could have four hours sleep, then get bussed back to the airport. Only to find they had lost someone, so they need to unpack the luggage and removed that person’s suitcase. By this stage we were zombies, too tired even to complain. Yes, it was better than crashing.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, from the air

1995: Air Zimbabwe. Between Harare and Nairobi, and Harare to the Victoria Falls. First experience with this airline, the back of the seat in front of me came off in my hands. Hmmm. So long as nothing else falls off. However on the flight to Victoria Falls, we had left our tickets in the hotel room. By the time we got back to the airport with the tickets we had missed our flight so they put us on the next flight. There were apparently some dignitaries on board so as we arrived at Victoria, they got permission to do a couple of circuits over the falls. Spectacular views of the falls from the air! BYO food, if you are hungry.

1997: Singapore Airlines. Australia to Cairo via Singapore. Very very tall, very very slender air hostesses. Excellent service, complimentary Singapore Slings.

1997: Air Egypt. Various places within Egypt including Cairo to Abu Simbel. Like Air Zimbabwe, these planes appear to be a little worse for wear, but generally no problems. I believe it was also BYO food. Short flights, got there without incident, happy.

1998: Singapore Airlines. Australia to Orlando, Florida. Again, great service, very elegant staff. Still the days before personal electronics in the back of the seat, but all survivable.

1998: Some US airline, the memory of the name escapes me. We flew from Orlando to LA, via Washington. I know, not a very direct route. Anyway, it turns out it was Thanksgiving and the plane was almost empty so they let us have a row of seats each and served us the first-class meals, turkey and champagne. Very nice. Given a preference, I would fly every trip lying down. Sigh.

2011: Singapore Airlines. Australia to Paris and return. Again, excellent service, free Singapore Slings. Full electronics in the back of the seat kept the kids (and us all) occupied. Not quite sure why we had to be woken at 3am local time on the return flight, particularly when the children were so difficult to get to sleep in the first place.

2011: Air France. Paris to Naples. Children disappointed that they didn’t have the electronic games that the international flights had. They have already become connoisseurs of international airlines, it would seem.

All in all, no serious incidents, certainly no crashes (touch wood). A lot of discomfort, but some serious long-haul flights were accomplished.

I seriously need some more comparisons…..