Airline price match

Direct action ... Qantas has a new strategy to boost online bookings.
Direct action ... Qantas has a new strategy to boost online bookings. Photo: Michel O'Sullivan

Qantas's new ticket pledge is focused on keeping online customers, writes Clive Dorman.

Qantas is offering airfare shoppers a "price promise" eerily similar to the price-beat guarantee its subsidiary Jetstar has been spruiking for several years.

But, in an indication of just how strange competition can become, it's not designed to beat prices from a growing competitive threat, such as Virgin Australia, but from retailers selling Qantas seats.

All is OK with Qantas's retail and wholesale partners, says John Lonergan, the head of Qantas Direct, which sells more than half the daily domestic seats and an unspecified number of international seats through qantas.com.

Nevertheless, Lonergan is determined to slow the number of people leaving qantas.com without buying anything.

"If you find a lower publicly available fare on an Australian website, for the same Qantas flight on the same day after booking with us, we'll match it," the new Qantas spiel says.

The same applies for all hotels, cars, activities and transfers available at qantas.com, it says. As well, Qantas frequent flyers can receive 1000 extra points for successful price matches.

"It's really just a classic retailing strategy that says, 'you're in here, you're looking around at our stuff, there's no real reason not to buy this product right now'," Lonergan says.

"We've actually been running a price promise on our cars and hotels for 18 months to two years when we sell cars and hotels on qantas.com. This is more of a tidy up because customers were starting to ask us 'what about flights?'

"We know that people come to qantas.com if they're interested in Qantas. What we don't want is people leaving to keep comparing. So it's a matter of trying to get the conversion [to a sale] of people there. If the reason you're not buying is because you think you can get this flight better somewhere else, buy it now."

Lonergan says he isn't aware of independent websites selling cheaper seats on Qantas flights.

"The risk, as any retailer would know, is that if a customer leaves your shop, there's a chance they might buy someone else's product," he says.

Nevertheless, the new promotion spruiks the fact that qantas.com has no booking fees and fee-free payment options - a dig at independent online retailers such as Webjet.

"It's [Webjet] the only company I know that makes a virtue out of charging customers for a service," Lonergan says.

"I think they're a phenomenal company. Their basic proposition is: don't go to an airline website because we can show you five different carriers or 50 international carriers. We have a completely different proposition ... if you've decided to fly Qantas, buy this ticket now."

However, Lonergan acknowledges that, because of differences in the way the full-service and low-cost brands work their seating inventories, it's now possible to find a Qantas seat that's cheaper than a seat on low-cost subsidiary Jetstar on the same route and on the same day.

"It's always been dynamic pricing, but it's interesting that people are starting to realise that," he says.

So shop around - though qantas.com's price promise is trying to discourage you from doing so.

Comments