Perth Airport’s chief executive, Kevin Brown, has reignited his war of words with Qantas, accusing the business of not paying fees since January.
The airline has insisted it will settle its bill, but responded that the airport actually owes it $200 million for a terminal it handed back in 2019.
The row comes as Perth reveals international and interstate passenger numbers have dropped from 865,000 in April 2019 to just 24,000 in April 2020.
In a strongly-worded statement released to the media on Monday morning, Brown took aim at Qantas, Virgin and the Australian government for not doing enough to help during the coronavirus crisis.
“I feel there’s been a lack of awareness from government, business and the community about how devastating coronavirus has been for airports,” he said.
“We had already estimated a loss of $100 million in revenue for the remainder of the financial year.
“That was before Qantas, without any consultation or negotiation, decided it would not pay us any aviation or lease payments for February and March, despite the fact Qantas had already collected airport charges from its passengers and the FIFO sector.
“Qantas’ decision wiped a further $20 million from our revenue. While Qantas is not covered by the COVID-19 National Code of Conduct on commercial leases, their actions go completely against the spirit of the National Code.”
The airline rebutted the claims, with Qantas International CEO Tino La Spina telling The Australian the airport owed it far more money because it handed back terminal four in January 2019.
“In fact, they’ve been collecting all of the retail revenue for the terminal and haven’t paid us that,” La Spina said.
He added that any payment of fees would be conditional on the airport making a submission to an independent arbitrator on the value of the domestic terminal.
The tit-for-tat exchange followed Perth Airport releasing passenger numbers for April, which Brown said had “fallen off a cliff”.
Interstate and international numbers are down 97 per cent year on year in April while total passenger numbers – including fly-in, fly-out to mines – have dropped more than a million to just 193,000.
“You would most probably have to go back to the 1960s to see interstate and international passenger numbers as low as these,” said Brown.
“We collect aviation revenue on a per passenger basis. And international and interstate passengers usually make up around 75 per cent of our normal passenger load. When that drops away to next to nothing, the financial implications are swift and severe.”
This loss has caused the closure of all shops and the majority of its car parks. Currently, three of its five terminals remain shut, too.
Finally, Brown confirmed that while Virgin owes the airport $16 million, they are no longer physically blocking its planes following written assurances from administrators.