We need to rebuild the Qantas brand: Joyce

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has admitted the airline needs to rebuild its brand after last year's engine explosion and earn the trust of customers.

"Qantas was certainly hurt by the events of last year and we have a lot of rebuilding to do," he said.

Speaking at the Melbourne Press Club, Mr Joyce said a part of the airline's efforts to repair its image was its offer of free flights home to Australians fleeing unrest in Egypt.

The free flights from Frankfurt or London to Australia, which may be taken up by as many as 800 travellers, would have a total ticket value of about $1 million, but it will likely pay dividends in brand perception.

"There's no hesitation for us to offer free flights to get them back home because we get the reaction that we did over there," Mr Joyce said, referring to the relief passengers expressed on seeing the Flying Kangaroo on the Cairo runway.

One such passenger, Brigitte de Poi, 18, who was on the first government-chartered flight to Frankfurt, commended Qantas and their staff yesterday.

"The actual organisation by Qantas at Frankfurt was absolutely phenomenal. We can't praise Qantas enough," she told Fairfax radio 3AW.

"They even fed us, which we weren't expecting, they found us blankets, pajamas and toothbrushes.

"When we got off the plane they had medical staff and even counsellors there for people...they were fantastic," she said.

Mr Joyce said the airline's response generates brand loyalty.

"Somebody will have that for the rest of their lives and will be a committed customer for us," he said.

"The passion that generates in Qantas is quite amazing, and that's something we need to build on."

Citing major incidents such as the QF32 engine explosion in November, an exploding oxygen cylinder on QF30 in 2008 and the runway overrun in Bangkok by QF1 in 1999, Mr Joyce said he has come to expect months of media reporting of every subsequent glitch.

But he said the airline's own research showed that its customers were "very understanding" of the QF32 incident.

"The brand has always recovered after these things," he said.

"We focus in on what we've always done to make sure people have pride in the Qantas brand," he said.

Honesty and transparency were "key" to regaining trust when it comes to explaining things that go wrong, Mr Joyce said.

"We were telling everything we knew [about] what was happing on the A380.

"We got some criticism for that — Rolls-Royce didn't like us doing that. We felt they went to ground — we didn't like what they were doing," Mr Joyce said.

A calm voice from the cockpit was also reassuring in flying incidents.

"We do try to focus on making sure the pilots are encouraged to give as much information to communicate with passengers.

"We're working on it and we see it as an important part of our customer service," Mr Joyce said.

Joyce also took a swipe at those who have criticised the airline's maintenance, saying that a myth was developing that Qantas sending all its engineering and maintenance offshore.

"The fact is that last year we undertook 93 per cent of all our maintenance in Australia, and over 80 per cent of Qantas heavy maintenance," he said.