The industry group representing airlines has become embroiled in a war of words with its airport equivalent over claims its members aren’t paying fees.
Airlines for Australia & New Zealand (A4ANZ), which represents Qantas and Virgin, said the allegations made by Australian Airports Association (AAA) are “misleading and wrong”.
A4ANZ chairman Graeme Samuel said, “We had hoped that in this crisis, monopoly airports might work with their biggest customers to resolve these issues without the need for attempts at public shaming. Perhaps old habits die hard. It’s an ill-advised strategy.”
The argument follows an article in The Sydney Morning Herald in which AAA chief executive James Goodwin said 24 regional airports are owed $10 million in unpaid fees and 10 larger capital city airports are owed $7 million.
“Airlines are managing cash flow and one way to manage cash flow is holding out paying your invoices,” Goodwin said. “But the flow-on effect is that it makes it very difficult for the airport to manage its cash flow and be able to provide those services for the community.”
Goodwin then insinuated that airports weren’t playing fair considering they have received a number of government packages of assistance including a $300 million bailout for regional flights, $165 million for a minimum domestic network, $715 million in waiving fees and levies as well as supplemented repatriation flights.
“When that assistance is not flowing through the food chain, that’s where we’ve got a big issue,” Goodwin added.
The airlines knocked back the allegations in a statement sent to Australian Aviation, which said its members reacted with “disbelief and disappointment”.
A4ANZ chief executive Alison Roberts said, “Claiming that debts are outstanding without clarifying that arrangements have actually been made for deferral or relief, or that the fees have since been paid, is misleading and wrong.
“History shows that airports recover much faster and on a greater scale than airlines after global economic shocks. But as we face our biggest economic challenge in over a century, the aviation industry – and the economy more broadly – simply can’t afford to have the cost of airports’ recovery being borne by airlines and their passengers.”
Samuel added that the solution is not for “cash-strapped airlines” to recoup the losses suffered by airports due to low passenger numbers.
“There has to be a better way, or the whole industry’s recovery will be put at risk,” he said.
The industry group represents Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin, Tigerair, Air New Zealand and Rex.