Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has written a withering newspaper column about rival Rex, mocking its “empty aircraft” that are so old the “propellers are literally falling off”.
“It’s a well-known fact in the industry that Rex has now chalked up another dubious honour,” wrote Joyce. “It has presided over the worst launch of a new jet airline in Australia’s aviation history, with empty aircraft and announced routes that have never been flown.”
Joyce’s article was a direct response to one written in the same newspaper by Rex’s deputy chairman John Sharp, who branded Qantas “technically insolvent”.
“In March, [Rex’s] deputy chairman John Sharp told media that passenger numbers on Rex’s new jet services were ‘better than expected’, but declined to give any detail,” wrote Joyce. “When confronted with figures showing aircraft were only 20 per cent full, he said competitors were spying. Not that the figures were wrong – but that people were daring to look.”
He then mocked the airline’s “lonely customers” and accused Sharp of making “baseless criticisms” on purpose because it was a “key part of its strategy”.
“There are now so many ridiculous claims from Sharp and Rex, we have set up a page on our website to debunk them,” said Joyce.
He went on to suggest Rex had “failed to invest” in its fleet, which meant its aircraft propellers “are literally falling off”.
“All of this poses serious questions for Rex’s customers, employees and Singaporean investors. Will they get credible answers? Or will the response to scrutiny be greeted with more baseless criticism of Qantas in the hope of diverting attention? We’ve all seen this movie before.”
The column marks the latest barb in the extraordinary public slanging match between the two airlines, which started with Rex accusing the flag carrier of using “predatory” tactics to compete with it on previously exclusive routes. Qantas responded by arguing that its smaller rival was throwing a “tantrum”.
In Sharp’s original article, he suggested his counterpart Joyce was a hypocrite for going “cap in hand” to the federal government for help.
“Qantas is now so desperate that it is willing to risk universal ridicule just to get its hands on more cash at any cost,” he wrote.
He said Joyce had repeatedly tried to discredit his airline and cast doubts about its viability. “Rex’s patience has a limit,” he wrote. “It is now time to set the record straight.”
After criticising the airline’s performance over the last decade, he said that while Qantas likes to “brag” about its financial position, it’s actually “disturbingly similar” to Virgin’s before it went into administration.
“It could be argued that Qantas is now technically insolvent since its limited unencumbered cash would not be sufficient to meet all of its liabilities that have fallen due, especially the refundable tickets worth billions,” he wrote.