The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services first graced the skies in 1920 with a fleet of two rickety biplanes. Amid the necessity to fly long distances across the nation the airline has now innovated to a fleet 128; regularly flying long haul routes as far as 14,000km in a non-stop journey. This adaptability has earnt Qantas the title as one of the most adaptable and innovative airlines.
But how did the airline from the land down under, achieve so much in such little time.
QANTAS AS INNOVATORS
Qantas is a source of innovation. The airline adheres to the ancient proverb
‘Necessity is the mother of all invention’ constantly working with manufacturers to fulfil the necessity of long distance travel.
According to Business Lecturer Hamid Tohidi’s 2012 book The Importance of Innovation; innovation is different to creativity. “Innovation is crucial in growth, survival and success of organisations.” Creativity is the thought process that sparks innovative ideas.
As a leading airline CEO, Alan Joyce acknowledges the need for innovation as a result of sector-wide demand for comfort, accessibility and affordability stating, “there is no success, without risk.”
Joyce continues “the other thing is communication when I’m travelling I always talk to the pilots, to the cabin crew, I talk to people, I enjoy talking to people, customers, staff, shareholders.” The CEO says it is critical to find out what’s happening on the frontline to inform decision making and diffusion of ideas.
As innovators Qantas demonstrates technological determinism as socio-culturalists, who believe consumers drive change. This can be evidenced in the airline’s timeline, which exhibits the companies understanding of consumer demands.
QANTAS INNOVATION TIMELINE
1958 – The first airlines to service both hemispheres during around-the-world flights
1956- Qantas invents the inflatable escape slide
1979 – Qantas invents and terms the phrase Business Class
2004 – Qantas launches budget airline Jetstar
2010 – Domestic check-in is revolutionised with the introduction of Q Bag Tag
2011 – Direct services between Sydney and Dallas become the longest commercial flight in the world
2017 – The Kangaroo route directly connects Australia and Europe for the first time
2022 – Cargo class will allow passengers to travel in modular pods making flying more luxurious and accessible
The brief timeline clearly outlines the company’s innovative business model. However, Qantas isn’t the only innovator in the market.
The blackbox recorder system was invented by Australian David Warren and sold to TransAustralia Airlines, VirginAmerica innovated “making flying fun again” with their popular in-flight safety videos and the largest passenger jet the A380 was flying for years with Singapore Airlines before Qantas adopted it.
While Qantas weren’t the innovators of these products their brand was positively changed by being early adopters. The innovations had already been accepted by a global audience Qantas simply extended the reach of the inventions by exciting Australian consumers with their arrival.
DIFFUSION OF INNOVATIONS
According to American communication theorist and sociologist, Everett Rogers, diffusion of innovations are ideas which are “communicated through different channels, over time, among people in a given social system.”
As discussed Qantas are innovators, but Joyce also believes the company to be early adopters.
“We’re proud of our track record as innovators and early adopters, and we think there’s much more to come.”
Rodgers designed a curve to visually demonstrate the spread of new technologies and ideas. Innovations that appear on Qantas occur between innovators and early majority. This is because passengers pay a premium to travel with the Spirit of Australia and expect a level of luxury. Opposingly, Qantas’ successful diffusion line; Jetstar a budget airline innovates at a much slower rate. A result of Jetstar customers solely wanting to get from A to B at the lowest fare.
Qantas as a leading innovator has big plans for the future.
In their 2018 Annual Report CEO Alan Joyce emphasised the company’s goals for the future as;
– Strengthening loyalty programs which continue to grow
– Diffusion airline Jetstar will upgrade its A320 cabins from 2019
– Direct non-stop flights from the east coast of Australia to New York and London by 2022.
– Project Sunrise has allowed for feasibility studies on Cargo Class modules to meet socio-cultural needs of accessibility, comfort and affordability.
Qantas marketing push on these innovations for the future comply with the model of diffusion of innovations. The company is stimulating discussion about changes to promote observability and adoptability of its upcoming innovations.
Images Sourced: https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/cargo-class-qantas-ceo-reveals-out-there-options-for-super-long-haul-flights-20180327-p4z6l2.html https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/airbus-zodiac-aerospace-lower-deck-sleep-space/ https://www.ausbt.com.au/photos-how-airbus-plans-to-put-passengers-in-the-cargo-hold
For the first year in many Qantas didn’t place in the SKYTRAX top 10 airlines award. Was this due to a safety concern, customer dissatisfaction or lack of innovation.
Merely the airline industry is more competitive than ever which is why Qantas must continue to innovate and diffuse inventions into different markets to remain ahead.
Regardless of Qantas global ranking, I will continue to still call Australia home for as long as the red tails continue to grace our skies.
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