5 Sep 2008

Qantas strikes more turbulence

10:22 pm on 5 September 2008

More turbulence hit Qantas on Friday with the national carrier again plagued by flight delays and complaints about its offshore advertising strategy.

In the latest developments, 308 passengers on a flight to London were forced to camp overnight in the terminal at Melbourne International Airport because of a damaged wing.

On Friday morning, Qantas passengers in Melbourne were forced to disembark from a Sydney-bound flight because of fumes inside the cabin.

And mechanical problems grounded a Japan-bound flight of Qantas subsidiary Jetstar out of Sydney at 11.30am local time.

A Qantas spokesman said the 220 passengers on board QF418 "disembarked normally" when fumes entered the cabin after the plane's engines started up. They caught later flights to Sydney.

The Boeing 767 was taken out of service, forcing the cancellation of three later flights the plane was due to make on Friday.

In Sydney, the Jetstar A330-200 aircraft bound for Osaka experienced hydraulic-related problems, forcing passengers to disembark. They later boarded a replacement aircraft for Japan a few hours later.

On Thursday night, flight QF29, scheduled to leave Melbourne at 10.50pm, was delayed after an access panel on the wing was damaged prior to boarding when it was removed to service a component behind it. The plane finally got away at just after 6am.

Airline told to make improvements

The latest delays come four days after the civil aviation watchdog told Qantas to make a range of improvements to its aircraft maintenance system.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority took a closer look at the national carrier after a series of safety incidents which included an emergency landing in Manila when an oxygen tank exploded mid-flight in July.

Latest figures from the Transport Department show more than a third of Qantas domestic flights were late in July. The figures show 37.2% were late departing and 36.4% were late arriving. Jetstar was just as bad, with 37.8% of flights arriving late.

One in 15 Qantas flights were cancelled in July, including almost one in six between Sydney and Melbourne.

Ad complaints

In Britain, Qantas has become embroiled in a row with the Advertising Standards Authority which has received complaints about a series of print and television ads in which the airline claims to be the world's most experienced.

Qantas executive general manager John Borghetti was standing by the claims.

"Not only has Qantas been in full operation longer than any other airline in the world but the depth and breadth of our experience as a long haul carrier backs this up," he said. "We are defending our assertion that Qantas is the world's most experienced airline."

Qantas has flown continuously for 87 years, was the first airline to introduce business class in 1979 and in 1958, became the first to fly around the world.