Virgin comes out winning from Qantas’ tanking reputation: YouGov BrandIndex

Adelaide, Australia - March 21, 2016: Planes from domestic air industry competitors and rivals Qantas and Virgin, coming and going from Adelaide airport.
Edited by Travel Weekly


    Qantas’ brand health has taken an unprecedented dive after the airline allegedly sold tickets for thousands of flights that had already been cancelled.

    Data from YouGov BrandIndex revealed that Virgin Australia emerged as the main beneficiary of Qantas Airways’ ongoing crisis.

    On September 6, Alan Joyce stepped down as CEO of Qantas Airways two months ahead of schedule, handing over leadership of the Australian flag carrier to former CFO Vanessa Hudson. His abrupt departure came days after the airline faced legal action from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), for allegedly selling tickets for thousands of flights that had already been cancelled over a three-month period in 2022.

    Barely a week after the leadership change, the High Court of Australia unanimously ruled that Qantas broke industrial law by illegally firing 1,700 ground staff at 10 Australian airports in 2020, upholding an earlier federal court ruling which the airline had appealed against.

    Following this tumultuous string of high-profile lawsuits, how has Qantas’ brand health been impacted?

    Latest data from YouGov BrandIndex shows that consumer sentiment towards “The Flying Kangaroo” has soured sharply as news of its alleged misconduct spreads far and wide.

    Qantas’ Buzz score (which measures whether consumers have heard more positive or negative things about a brand in the past two weeks) hovered around 10 points for most of July, but dipped to 7.7 on August 21 when it was served a class-action lawsuit for allegedly withholding refunds on cancelled flights, then dropped to 3.1 on August 31 when the ACCC started legal proceedings.

    By the time Joyce stepped down on September 6, Qantas’ Buzz score had entered negative territory at -1.9 – which meant more consumers heard something negative than positive about the brand over the past two weeks – before plummeting to -7.2 by September 14, a day after Australia’s top court ruled that the carrier illegally fired 1,700 ground staff during the pandemic.

    Consumer impression towards Qantas took a similar nosedive. Between the class-action lawsuit on August 21 and Joyce’s early exit on September 6, the airline’s Impression score lost 10 points – declining from 26.9 to 16.9 – before falling to 8.3 the day after the High Court ruling, on September 14.

    Meanwhile, the flag carrier’s Index score (an overall measure of brand health calculated as an average of Impression, Quality, Value, Reputation, Satisfaction, Recommendation scores) more than halved over the same period: tumbling from 21.5 on August 21 to 10.2 by September 14.

    Data from YouGov BrandIndex also reveals that Virgin Australia has emerged as the main beneficiary of Qantas Airways’ ongoing crisis. Virgin’s Index score, which was neck to neck with Qantas in early August, has started on an upward trend since late August – as Qantas’ Index score moved in the opposite direction.
    Between Qantas’s class-action lawsuit on August 21 and its change of CEO on September 6, Virgin’s Index score rose from 25.1 to 27.6 points – before climbing to 28.8 by September 14, after Australia’s top court ruled Qantas has illegally fired ground staff during the pandemic.

    During this period, Virgin also launched a baggage tracking tool covering more than two-thirds of its domestic network in Australia, and a self-service flight rebooking tool for business passengers whose flights have been disrupted.

    Qantas’ smaller rival Bonza Aviation also recorded slight gains in consumer sentiment over the same period. The low-cost carrier saw its Index score increase from 3.1 on August 21 to 4.7 by September 14, although this remains more than five points lower than Qantas.

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