Author of Qantas slogan asks CEO to remove it as airline battles PR crises

Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas. Source: AAP/Biance De Marchi.

Writer and commentator Phillip Adams has called on the Qantas boss to immediately remove the flag carrier’s ‘Spirit of Australia’ slogan from all branding as multiple crises engulf the company.

The 82-year-old, who had been made an Officer of the Order of Australia and received six honorary doctorates from Australian universities, made his mark during an illustrious career in film production and advertising, during which he says he coined the iconic catchphrase.

These days, Adams shows no signs of slowing down, hosting a show on ABC’s national radio four nights a week while writing a weekly column for Australian weekend newspaper.

A furious Adams made the request on Thursday, speaking directly to Qantas CEO Alan Joyce on Twitter:

I am the author of ‘Spirit of Australia’, Adams wrote. Then deserved, now tragically inappropriate.

My slogan is being vetoed. Please remove it from all fuselages, tickets and advertisements.

It comes amid a torrid period for the national airline, with public relations crises piling up like lost luggage in the wrong terminal.

Qantas canceled a staggering 13 flight in May due to reliability concerns. This morning the airline confirmed that it is reducing domestic flight times by up to 15% until September and 10% until March next year.

This week Qantas also apologized to a grieving passenger who waited for the bag containing her mother’s ashes for more than four days after flying from Heathrow Airport to Sydney, after a heavy social media buildup .

The passenger’s partner, Women’s Community Shelters CEO Annabelle Daniel, tweeted that she had received “noto Responses from your website. Could you help more please?

The tweet sparked an outpouring of support and anger, with author Susan Francis calling it disgusting treatment and calling on shareholders to make noise”.

Qantas issued a new apology last week after 300 passengers were stranded at a Dallas airport in the US for 24 hours, many sleeping on hard flooring waiting to hear what was happening. The plane was delayed twice due to a technical error, but Qantas staff did not arrange accommodation for any passengers.

The problems facing the airline are likely to worsen in the coming weeks as families attempt to travel to holiday destinations during the school holidays. On Friday morning, travelers were told to expect long queues, delayed flights and lost luggage at Melbourne and Brisbane airports.

So where does a beleaguered national airline go from here?

Jodie Quick, Travel Industry Expert at Meridian Travel & Cruise, says SmartCompany advertising will be extremely damaging to the brandnor will Joyce find much industry support.

Call wait times average around 2.5-3 hours currently for the industry, she says.

Alan Joyce thought this model might be a great idea to try to save some money [and] employed 750 off-shore call center staff in Fiji who unfortunately know very little.

Meanwhile, managing director of global security services for World Travel Protection Rodger Cook says he has flown 15 flights on Qantas this year and has experienced no disruptions or baggage issues.

Cook pointed out that all airlines are grappling with traveler demand, lack of employees due to people changing careers during COVID, and in some jurisdictions the big quit played a role.

But there’s no denying that Joyce laid off a large portion of its workforce, some 2,000 people, during the pandemic, which the Federal Court twice ruled illegal (once on appeal). On Friday morning, the company announced that it would be handing out a “one-time boost” of $5,000 to nearly 20,000 employeespartly to compensate for the lack of annual salary increases in recent years.

Disputes with ground handling staff have not helped Qantas and further industrial action cannot be ignored, said Cook.

Despite the beatings, Qantas will survive, says Cook – and its saving grace may be its points system.

We believe Qantas will recover. As a business traveler, their Frequent Flyer program always offers great rewards and the lounges are full, he says.

Qantas needs to ensure that its internal industrial relations issues do not affect travellers, they need to improve their call center response times as well as their on-time departure times.

Will Joyce’s time at the top be limited? That may be less certain this morning as Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans announced he would step down in December and leave the airline in 2023.

Evans was widely assumed to be the logical replacement for Qantas, should the long-serving CEO step down.

Lola R. McClure