Online baggage tracking is the latest in a string of initiatives Virgin has taken to try and improve the uncomfortable parts of travel. It follows the carrier’s “middle seat lottery,” where those who elect to sit in the middle go into the running to win prizes, and a “rapid rebook” tool that gives customers more options if there is a cancellation or long delay.
The success of these kinds of initiatives is contingent on the airline meeting its core goal of transporting passengers from one destination to the next on time. Lately, this has been difficult for Virgin, with Regional Express, Qantas and Jetstar beating its average on-time performance last month.
“The cause of the July challenges were a combination of air traffic control issues and weather and as a result of that some of our resources were impacted. So, we’ve spent a lot of time working on how to ensure the elements in our control work better for us into the future,” Jones said.
It’s difficult to remember the future of the Australian aviation industry and indeed Virgin itself was seriously in question less than three years ago. For newly minted Jones, it was a perilous time.
“When I first joined we had borders opening and closing at a whim. It was incredibly difficult for our staff and our customers. I think the industry as a whole did as much as it could but the thing I noticed initially was the focus on taking care of our people,” Jones said.
When Jones left Qantas, he was its chief operating officer and had just overseen a controversial decision to outsource 2500 ground handling roles to international companies used by airlines all over the world, including Menzies, Swissport and Dnata. The airline is currently awaiting a High Court verdict which will determine whether this move was unlawful.
He’s reluctant to talk about his former employer or any other competitor, instead electing to squarely focus on Virgin and its quest to grow market share.
“There’s lots of choice for customers in this market. Obviously, we’ve had a number of new entrants in the market, but I think … people like to fly with us because of what we offer. It goes back to the value we provide, the service and experience,” Jones said.
Virgin sits squarely in the middle of low-cost carrier Jetstar and full-service Qantas. According to Jones, its differentiator is choice.
“ We also offer choice in that our customers elect what they want to pay for. I think we have an amazing service proposition. Our frontline staff are absolutely incredible. But at its core, we’re about value and service,” Jones said.
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