May 052007

Greetings once again, dear reader. Part two of the business trip from…..not quite hell….. but by yesterday arvo, pretty close.

Take a gander at the pic below…


It’s a thumbnail, dummy! Click on it!

Now, if you look up Jetstar’s flight scheduling, you’ll find JQ484 is programmed to leave Newcastle at 13:45 hours, arriving in BrisVegas at 14:50 hours. A nice, neat 1 hour five minutes in an Airbus. When we arrived at Williamtown, we were greeted with, "Gentlemen, JQ484 is delayed an hour & a half due to some parts having to be replaced in Melbourne" Bewdy! Another 90 minutes onto a week-long trip which we’ve all had enough of. Oh well….. I pulled out the laptop, as did the MD and the Franchisee Manager and we availed of Williamtown’s free wireless broadband service, whiling away the time with some casual surfing, diary catch-ups and what-have-you. Given the experience we had as the afternoon wore on, I’m left wondering who pays the internet costs.

Now, 90 minutes onto a departure time of 13:45 makes eventual departure 15:15 hours, which would get us home before the peak hour…..just. Cool, one might think. The plane arrived on (adjusted) time, thankfully. However, it didn’t take the usual position in front of the terminal, but parked well off to the end of departure gate three and out of the way of other aircraft which came in after it. Reason? More work required, thanks very much. I went outside to take a gander and here’s an Airbus A320-200 with five maintenance hatches opened in it’s belly, plus two main undercarriage doors, normally closed, open with an engineer attached, head inside the cavernous belly of the aircraft. This is an aircraft which – supposedly – had been repaired in Melbourne prior to flying the hour or so to Williamtown. Remember though, Williamtown is Jetstar’s maintenance base. Any major repair or maintenance item would need to be done there.


Noticed the eventual departure time on the full-sized photo above yet? 18:15 hours. It’s bullshit! By the time Jetstar’s people got their collective shit together, it was 18:50 which had us back home at 20:10. As the MD’s Dad said "Jesus! Seven and a half hours……we could have been in Hong Kong by now!" Well, probably not, Kerry, but definitely in Singapore. I think by the time I managed to grab a taxi (Brisbane airport on a Friday evening after seven o’clock?!! HAH!!) and take the 30 minute trip home, I arrived there just after 21:00 hours.

Now here’s the real kicker. During the flight, the pilot in charge did the usual ’welcome aboard and thanks for flying…’ shit. He intimated that hydraulics had been the issue in both Melbourne and Newcastle. When this plane landed in Brisbane it shook like a wet dog fresh out of a bath, flinched under brakes and took a hell of a long time to pull up. For anyone who knows the Brisbane Airport runway/taxiway setup, from either direction – 01 or 19 – there are designated ’fast exit’ taxiways. We definitely missed the standard fast exit taxiway from 01 last night. In fact, the reversers were still shaking the airframe as we flashed past it. No-one will have me believe the hydraulics on that aircraft were up to scratch. Braking was tentative at best and we turned off the runway well past the standard Virgin/Jetstar exits.

Once off the aircraft, I had a gander back underneath, and those same maintenance hatches were opened with an auxiliary power cart in place. What worries me is that same aircraft would have been looked at again, patched or juried, or worse…..evaluated for a mean time before failure of the suspect part or parts, and sent back to Newcastle with it’s next load, then back to Brisbane on a late red-eye. Is that the way to run an airline? Is that the way to engender confidence from your passengers, both real and potential? Word of mouth is a powerful tool and has two very sharp edges.

There isn’t a person living who will convince me, after yesterday’s debacle, that Jetstar/QANTAS are observing regulatory maintenance schedules for all of their respective aircraft. That A320 from yesterday should have been sidelined, with another aircraft substituted, but I know how the airline game works. It’s a ’down-to-the-wire’ scenario, where every aircraft not in line for a scheduled maintenance review is in the air. An aircraft not flying is an aircraft which is costing money. That’s cool, I can dig that, but when flights are constantly late, delayed due to maintenance problems – which is apparently the case with a large majority of Jetstar flights – then something just isn’t happening according to Hoyle. That something has to be maintenance.

With the entry into the Australian domestic marketplace of Tiger Airways, the issues of cost -v- profit are going to become so much more demanding. I for one will never fly Jetstar again, no matter what. The question which remains unanswered and unanswerable is, should I trust any of them? Virgin, QANTAS, Tiger?

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