Jetstar is employing “mystery shoppers” to travel on its network and check service standards.
The move comes as the Qantas offshoot has eclipsed Europe’s easyJet and Ryanair in terms of its growth profile and is heading for more than 100 aircraft in 2012.
The program, introduced in the second half of last year, is provided by an outside party to complement the airline’s existing market and customer research.
The mystery shoppers travel regularly on domestic and international services and are not identified to staff.
“The program has been well received by our staff and importantly has provided management with effective, real-time feedback of our approach to customer service at all touch points, from the booking process to airports’ experience, boarding, in flight, arrival and baggage collection,” said Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway.
The airline has been forced to defend its service standards in recent weeks after about 20 Jetstar travellers were left stranded overnight and kicked out of Sydney Airport’s terminal 2 in the early hours of the morning.
Jetstar chief executive Alan Joyce denied this week that the airline was sacrificing customer service to deliver its low fares.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “Jetstar’s very proud of its customer service. We have recently been voted the world’s best low-cost carrier, the best cabin crew in the region.”
Mr Joyce said the mystery shoppers flew on the airline and checked out every aspect of customer service.
He said they also looked at ways of improving it.
He admitted there were issues the airline could have handled better, but said Jetstar was the first to admit it.
“Like in any organisation, there is occasionally a screw-up; there are things that you do – you’ve done – badly,” he said. “You learn from them, you improve on it and then you build on that going forward.”
In the case of Sydney, the airline had talked to all the airports to which it operated to make sure that terminals would be left open if passengers were stranded.
Mr Joyce earlier told a breakfast in Melbourne that airlines faced a big challenge maintaining low fares in the face of big rises in fuel costs.
He said the price of oil had risen to almost $100 a barrel, from $30 four years ago when Jetstar began operations.
Fuel had been 17 per cent of the airline’s cost base when it launched but comprised 32 per cent of its expenses today.
However, Jetstar’s costs had fallen each year as growth had produced scale benefits and with changes to the airline’s industrial relations framework.
“We’ve recently done a new deal for all new cabin crew coming into the business,” Mr Joyce said.
“They are on different productivity and terms and conditions than the existing cabin crew. That gives us a 20 per cent saving and replicates what Tiger have done in this market.”
Mr Joyce pointed to other savings from new, more cost-efficient aircraft as well as from the introduction of internet check-in and kiosks.
Looking ahead, Mr Joyce said the arrival of the Boeing 787 would revolutionise the industry from both a cost and customer perspective.
He said consumers would notice a big difference in the aircraft, with better pressurisation and humidity levels, bigger windows and wireless internet access.