Virgin Australia’s chief executive has written to the competition watchdog to formally complain about Qantas’s recent attacks on his airline.
In the letter, obtained on Tuesday by the Sydney Morning Herald, Virgin’s Paul Scurrah said Qantas’s actions “could cause immediate and irreparable damage to a competitive Australian air passenger transport industry”.
Mr Scurrah continued, “Virgin Australia has seen widespread reporting of public comments from Qantas and its executive team questioning directly or indirectly Virgin Australia’s financial viability and encouraging [the] government to refrain from extending any government support for the aviation industry to Virgin Australia.”
He accused Qantas of falsely briefing journalists that Virgin Australia’s cash reserves were running low.
Mr Scurrah is thought to be referring to numerous statements by Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce urging the government not to bailout Virgin.
Speaking to Sky News on Friday morning, Joyce said, “It would be completely unfair to our sector. We’d be competing against the Australian government. Qantas couldn’t do that, it would be an unbalanced, uncompetitive environment.
“The government can’t pick winners and losers, the government has to be fair to every company. Whatever aid it’s giving to one company it must give to everyone in the sector.
He added that the nation shouldn’t choose to look after “badly managed companies” in an apparent dig at Virgin Australia.
On Thursday, when Qantas announced it was cutting two-thirds of its staff and all but cancelling all international flights, Joyce told the media it would be “survival of the fittest” in the airline industry in tackling the coronavirus crisis.
Finally, in a phone call to staff, Joyce reportedly told workers to lobby their MPs on behalf of Qantas and said “governments are definitely not there to support a company that’s owned by Singaporeans, Chinese, Abu Dhabi and a British billionaire”, in a clear dig at Virgin.
The Virgin Australia Group, which includes the main Virgin Australia carrier and Tigerair, has grounded the equivalent of 53 aircraft so far in response to COVID-19.
At the time, Scurrah said, “We have responded by making tough decisions, which include reducing our domestic capacity and phasing in the temporary suspension of international flying for a period of two and a half months.”
Virgin shares are currently trading at $0.055 on the ASX. On Sunday night, the airline hinted new travel restrictions will cause it to cut again.