Qantas have still refused to admit they sent people two and a half hours in the air without a toilet after two days of appalling service on the Mount Isa-Brisbane route.
On Sunday a toilet aboard a Mount Isa aircraft became inoperational and passengers on the return leg to Brisbane were advised to use the airport toilets before boarding as there would be no toilets working aboard.
Initially Qantas told the North West Star the problem had been fixed at Mount Isa but when we reported that, there were angry denials from those either on the flight or with family on the flight.
Simon Greenhaigh said Qantas had straight out lied to the media.
“I can guarantee there were no toilets available for half of the flight from Brisbane into Mount Isa that day, and then no toilets available at all on the flight from Mount Isa to Brisbane.,” Mr Greenhaigh said.
“I know because my wife and kids were on it.”
Dionne Connolly said she was on the flight from Brisbane to Isa that morning.
“We departed with one functioning toilet and I reported the second one’s inability to flush to the crew while in transit to Isa, so if the returning flight had no operational toilets the problem was NOT fixed on landing in Isa," Ms Connolly said.
A Qantas spokesperson since told the Star they were advised the toilets were functioning in Mount Isa.
“But I am also aware that passengers were advised of the earlier fault,” the spokesperson said.
“We are speaking with Alliance to ensure all of the services they operate are comfortable and of course safe for customers.”
The incident came a day before another Brisbane – Mount Isa Qantas flight operated by Alliance had to be diverted to Longreach due to an “in air emergency”, as reported by some people aboard.
Passengers spent many frustrating hours on the ground before getting to Isa many hours later.
Qantas said Monday’s QantasLink flight QF 2700 was diverted due to a mechanical issue.
“The aircraft landed safely and reports that it was an emergency landing are incorrect,” Qantas said.
“An engineer will assess the aircraft before it is returned to service. A replacement aircraft was sent to collect passengers from Longreach and fly them up to Mount Isa this afternoon.”
Qantas said they were sorry for the delay to the service “but we will always prioritise safety over schedule”.
There were also reports of long delays to some services on Tuesday out of Mount Isa too.
The ongoing problems – subject of a current federal inquiry into rural and regional air services – have led to widespread anger in the community with at least one of the passengers on the Sunday flight out of Brisbane saying local politicians such as state KAP Leader and member for Traeger Robbie Katter were not doing enough.
Mr Katter has hit back and slammed Qantas for their second rate treatment of regional Queenslanders after the Longreach incident.
“This is another clear fail from Qantas on servicing North Queensland residents,’’ Mr Katter said.
“We have seen the level of service consistently deteriorate over a number of years to the point regional Queenslanders are treated as second class citizens – but are forced to pay first class prices.Cancellations, delays, diversions – they have become the norm for regional Queenslanders which is unacceptable.”
With the cost of regional flights also on the inquiry’s hit list, Mr Katter said many international flights that are cheaper than flying from Brisbane to Mount Isa.
“The cheapest flight I could find today to fly from Mount Isa to Brisbane was $667,” he said.
Mr Katter has met with a number of alternate carriers this year to discuss a viable airline option for regional Queenslanders.
“I have been calling for the Labor government to investigate possible price gauging and falling levels of service provided to regional Queenslanders for a long time,’’ he said. “But the concerns of North Queenslanders fall on deaf ears when it comes to this government.”
Mr Katter said excessive costs and poor service was only going to stop if the government showed some courage and forces airlines to demonstrate they are not overcharging on regional routes. “It’s time we seriously consider re-regulating our regional routes,” he said.
Mr Katter was hinting as the possibility of re-regulating the Mount Isa to Townsville route which would offer a way of then accessing the cheaper and more flexible fares available to east coast residents.
The matter came up at the public hearing Mr Katter organised in Mount Isa on the issue in April this year which was co-chaired by Senator Barry O’Sullivan and attended by over 100 people.
“People came from far and wide to attend the public hearing and they were outraged at the level of service and prices they had to pay,’’ he said.
“You can’t convince me Qantas is doing it tough either – they posted a $976 million profit for their December half and their CEO Alan Joyce took home $24.6 million in salary last year.
“Really, it’s disgusting. Mr Joyce is still welcome to collect his UnAustralian of the Year award which remains in my office.’’
The inquiry itself has concluded all its regional hearings (including Cloncurry in April) but a date has not yet been set for when the airlines themselves should front the inquiry, likely to held in either Sydney or Canberra.
In February, the Senate agreed to extend the inquiry’s reporting date from March 30 to September 20.
The inquiry into the operation, regulation and funding of air route service delivery to rural, regional and remote communities is looking at social and economic impacts of air route supply and airfare pricing, how airlines determine fare pricing, airport charges, subsidies and regulated routes.