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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

PEOPLE and STRATEGIC DECISIONS can make or break you.

Once Australis favourite brand, the ‘flying kangaroos’ have certainly hopped into hot water this time.

A barrage of criticism in the press followed the recent general meeting. For example, this weekend the ‘Financial Tines’ reports that the Qantas board has admitted losing the trust of its customers, shareholders and unions. (‘Australia falls out of love with Qantas.’)

There have been numerous problems.

  • The company was sued by the Australian consumer regulator for selling tickets for’ ghost flights, that had already been cancelled (and then hiding behind the ticket small print.)

  • A court then ruled that 1700 workers had been sacked illegally. Now there are big compensation claims that need sorting.

  • The Chief Executive stepped down.

  • The share price dropped almost 20 per cent since August.

  • On top of all that there’s been a huge increase in customer complaints, particularly about lost and damaged baggage, as parts of the operation were outsourced.

Not surprisingly, 83 per cent of shareholders voted against a new executive pay and bonus scheme at the general meeting.

There are at least a couple of lessons to be learnt here:

FIRST - while it takes years to build a valuable brand or reputation, it takes a much shorter time to throw it all away.

SECOND - perhaps it’s time to have a root and branch review of the way we work at the moment. Useless meetings, bureaucracy, pointless process, communication that lacks authenticity and out of date HR practices (that didn’t work in the 1990s so why would they work now?)

  • It’s far too easy to concentrate on the 80 per cent of non-value add tasks that fill the working day.

  • It’s the 20 per cent that really matter that doesn’t get done – or doesn’t get done well enough – and the consequences can be damaging and costly.

And yet, it's not all doom and gloom for the beleaguered airline. The strength of a brand and the resilience of trust are that, although they can be damaged, they're not beyond repair. To turn the tide, Qantas will need to demonstrate a genuine commitment to rectifying its missteps. This involves not only a strategic overhaul of operations but also a concerted effort to rebuild relationships with every stakeholder.

Trust is the foundation on which customer loyalty is built, and without it, no amount of brand marketing will suffice.

For businesses watching the Qantas saga unfold, the writing on the wall is clear: every strategic decision must be weighed with the understanding that people—the customers, employees, and broader community—are the ultimate arbiters of a brand's success.

As businesses navigate the complex web of 21st-century commerce, they must embrace transparency, prioritise ethical practices, and, above all, ensure their actions align with their words.

Those who ignore these imperatives do so at their peril, for in today's interconnected world, the court of public opinion is always in session, and the verdict can be swift and unforgiving. To regain its stature, Qantas will have to do more than just fly—it will have to soar in its pursuit of excellence and earn back the trust that once made it an emblem of national pride.

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