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Perth Airport takes aim at Qantas and government

written by Adam Thorn | May 4, 2020
A busy morning for the Qantas domestic terminal at Perth Airport. (Chris Frame)
A busy morning for the Qantas domestic terminal at Perth Airport. (Chris Frame)

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.

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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.

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“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.

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10 Comments

  • Mark

    says:

    Seems Perth Airport have forgotten what their business is , it isn’t to be shopping centre , but an airport serving the aviation industry.

  • Rod Pickin

    says:

    This action by the Perth Airport Administration is so immature and displays their very insular view of the situation that is affecting the world’s airlines and airports, not just Perth. Clearly their books show a very high outstanding debt value from their customers but one wonders why that debt was allowed to accumulate for so long and even, from where I stand, it appears a bit exorbitant too. Perth, placing trucks et al in front of and behind aircraft and supplying data to the press clearly to force some action may well cause a reaction, possible litigation. Your first course of action, possibly the second and third is to go talk to your customers, it will save you heaps in the end.

  • Michael Andrew

    says:

    Airport Authorities feeling the pinch wow? That’s what passengers feel every time they enter the “finance extraction zone” of Australian Airports! Our purses and wallets get belted in car-parks, check-in, food outlets, trolley hire and public transport, that’s how you Airport Authorities do it, are we supposed to feel sorry for you???
    Blocking aircraft at the nose gear with a front end loader because you are owed money, that’s your fix? Ever heard of reverse thrust or maybe towing aircraft from the main gear??

  • Matthew Alford

    says:

    Serves you right for being so greedy before.
    You won’t get any sympathy from me.

  • Henry

    says:

    The first 3 commentators beat me to it.

  • Alistair Young

    says:

    NO sympathy from me either. I once caught a taxi from Perth airport. The driver said “The airport is charging an extra tax.” “What for?” I said.
    “The transport facilities.”
    “What transport facilities? You picking me up from a dirty kerb?”

  • Save Airlines

    says:

    Qantas move your Perth to London flight to Darwin!! Launch your Europe non stop flights from Darwin too.

  • Bernard

    says:

    If Qantas is right what’s the Airport’s issue? Are we dealing with selective or non-agreed definitions or protocols from either party that makes them stubborn and ignore certain things? More info needed I think as it looks like games of power/ego. What am I missing in this? Travelling public, workers, freight shouldn’t be dragged into this.

  • John Marcus

    says:

    Pipe down Perth Airport!!!! Always causing a fuss when things aren’t going exactly your way. Work through this with your customers instead of being so steadfast in all your ideas. Management of this airport are far too full of themselves. Need I remind you that you have a monopoly on every airline passenger movement in and out of Perth, your recovery will come much faster than your customers (the airlines)

  • Steven

    says:

    From memory I understand it was an Australian Liberal government that sold Australian airports at a bargain price to the private sector.

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