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Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson has opened up about the airline’s recent issues and what she plans to do to get the airline back on track, in an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest.

“Customers have a very high expectation of Qantas – higher than our competitors. And we let them down,” Hudson said, in reference to the issues and scandals that have taken over the airline in recent years.

“Coming out of COVID was really difficult. It’s difficult for a lot of airlines. But particularly, we had a lot of difficulty.

“We disrupted a lot of customers, the recovery took too long. That was poor on time performance, high cancellations, lost bags, long call wait times, and customers have a very high expectation of Qantas higher than our competitors. And when we let them down, they remember it.

“And that happened for too long. So, now looking forward, what we need to do is to listen to customers understand the pain points and fix them,” she said.

Hudson was asked if it helped that she was a member of the senior leadership team at the time of these problems.

“Everyone felt the pain and the anger. It’s not just me.

“25,000 people that work for Qantas felt it as well. Because not only did we let our customers down, we let our people down.

“And I think given that, stepping into the role as CEO, I spent a lot of time listening, and actually less time talking, listening to customers, in focus groups, in focus groups with customers who are detractors, listening to our people, our pilots, cabin crew engineers.

“And I think that that’s actually a really important part to make sure that we focus on the things that matter. And our people, and our customers know what matters. And if you listen, that’s the most important part.”

“You’ve heard if you want what they want you to do. Can you do it?” Quest asked.

Absolutely,” Hudson replied.

“And we’ve started. We’re investing hundreds of millions – $230 million this year. And that’s really focused on four pain points, one fixing on time performance.

“This month actually saw Qantas airlines deliver over 80% on time performance. And we know for Jetstar, and also Qantas that directly relates to customer satisfaction.

“So we’ve seen our customer satisfaction rebound. We are investing in the in flight experience, Wi Fi, food and beverage, and also the surface experience.

“When things don’t go right, because things won’t always go right, we know that we will never put our schedule ahead of safety. And so when things don’t go right, we’re also focused on communicating better and recovering better than we have in the past. That’s through our digital channels. That’s about empowering our people on the front line. And then the fourth one, which is very important. We’ve recently relaunched our loyalty program, because loyalty is absolutely a core part of what our customers give us,” Hudson said.

The CEO also confirmed Project Sunrise is still on the cards.

“The first aircraft is due early 2026. We’re incredibly excited about Project Sunrise.

“It is absolutely in the plan. I spoke to Airbus this week, the first aircraft is is coming out. It’s being manufactured now. So it’s incredibly exciting. And this is going to connect Australia to New York, and also London direct from the East Coast.

So Sydney or Melbourne. We haven’t yet determined that. But we know our geographic distance in the world. We’re not afraid and have never been afraid to fly long haul to take what are leaps in in terms of driving, you know, using technology to the fullest advantage and project sunrise will be a key part of that,” Hudson said.