How does an airline down under stay on top of its service standards? We visit Qantasâ€™s state-of-the-art training facility in Sydney to find out
Before the Qantas Centre of Service Excellence launched in 2009, a large number of the airlineâ€™s employees had, remarkably, never actually been inside a Qantas aircraftâ€”a challenge for customer-service representatives that saw the Australian flag carrierâ€™s standards slump in the years prior. Today, efforts to boost productivity and service ratings see more than 18,000 staff sent â€śback to schoolâ€ť at the center annuallyâ€”everyone from executives to cabin crew to sales staff.
Located in the Sydney suburb of Alexandria, the multimillion-dollar center is the first of its kind for the airline and the first point of contact for new staff and those returning to work. â€śItâ€™s an interactive hub designed to let employees experience products in person,â€ť says the centerâ€™s manager, Maria Olivieri. Itâ€™s here that flight attendants are trained in everything from grooming to food appreciation and customer management; there are also aircraft â€śtraining podsâ€ť where cabin crew are put to the test preparing meals as they would in a galley in flight, pouring champagne without spilling a drop, and assisting passengers to their seats. Crew-in-training also undergo their final assessments here, before theyâ€™re given access to actual aircraft.
Apart from a 126-seat auditorium, most of the space is dedicated to â€ścustomer experience zonesâ€ť that showcases Qantasâ€™s in-flight offerings by class, from domestic economy and regional QantasLink products all the way up to first class. In each zone the airlineâ€™s hardware is on show: the seats, the meals and drinks, the uniforms, the reading material. When you reach first class, thereâ€™s a display of spa products, pajamas, champagne, and amenity kits, with offerings compared across the airlineâ€™s Boeing 747 and A380 aircraft. The pre- and post-flight experiences are also detailed, with lounge furniture, meals, and menus laid out.
The 5,000-square-meter facility is also one of the airlineâ€™s primary hubs for product testing and innovation. â€śOur engineers and designers work through different stages of seat development here,â€ť Olivieri explains. The airlineâ€™s menus are also conceptualized and tested on site, with culinary ambassador chef Neil Perry from Sydneyâ€™s Rockpool restaurant brought in to develop new menus for Qantas lounges and in-flight meal services. While visiting the center, we walk in on a cheese-and-wine tasting session: a row of soon-to-be flight attendants sampling the airlineâ€™s latest fromage with new vintages.
And then thereâ€™s the innovation zone, where staff can give their input and raise any issues. â€śWeâ€™ve seen cabin crew engagement soar since the center opened,â€ť Olivieri says. â€śItâ€™s important to give staff a voice.â€ť
This article originally appeared in theÂ August/September 2014Â print issue of DestinAsian magazine (â€śCenter Stageâ€ť)