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Joyce says ‘propellers literally falling off’ Rex aircraft in withering column

written by Adam Thorn | April 23, 2021
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce delivers the airline group's 2018/19 full year results. (Seth Jaworski)
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce delivers the airline group’s 2018-19 full year results. (Seth Jaworski)

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.”

The column in the AFR marks a major escalation in the war of words between the two airlines, which have for months been involved in a tit-for-tat argument over launching new services.

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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.

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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.

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15 Comments

  • Vannus

    says:

    Way to go, Alan!

    What a wonderful rebuttal of the arrogant, ignorant Sharp.

    Mr Joyce is 100% correct in that the absolute garbage being said by Sharp is deflection from his own little airline.

    QANTAS to the fore, as always!

  • Sydney

    says:

    LOL I stopped flying Rex years ago. Was on a Saab where it experienced engine failure on the left engine. There was no PA or communication from neither the flight attendant or flight deck.
    Then last year when Rex held the govt over a barrel demanding more bail out money while simultaneously refusing to transport cv19 pathology out of rural QLD… to then announce getting the jets just days after the bailout money?…
    I don’t trust Rex will look after the already ancient 737s they’re acquiring.

  • Doug Bright

    says:

    Joyce is well-known for being vindictive. He should be giving fellow aviation operators a break, especially in the current climate.

    At least Rex didn’t catastrophically lose an engine on an A380, following which the crew did well to get the kite on the ground amidst a host of conflicting electronic error and fault messages resulting from wing surfaces, electrics, hydraulics and fuel lines being penetrated by flying debris from the failure.

    And in the end the issue was one of faulty manufacture, not Q maintenance. Of course, this isn’t a competition, but you raised the issue, Alan ….. glass houses, buddy.

  • Andrew Millar

    says:

    As the saying goes; “Don’t poke the bear”. What is John sharp thinking?

    As someone who has worked at Ansett, Qantas and Jetstar Revenue Management departments I know what it takes to both win and lose these battles. I see nothing from Rex as yet to suggest it is nothing but completely naïve to what it faces.

    Years of successfully surviving in the regional markets of Australia and the knowledge gained from that is meaningless on the inter-city routes. Both QF and VA Group CEOs have battle-hardened experience for the current dog-fight having led Jetstar. I wonder how many people in the Commercial area of Rex can say the same. Time is of the essence.

    While Rex is not as naïve as Impulse was they are displaying similar characteristics. In the end time ran out for Impulse because it simply did not adapt quickly enough to survive. How long will it take Rex to learn its lessons?

  • Mark

    says:

    Think Joyce needs to grow up and act like an adult rather than his present purile and childish behaviour.

  • J_sh

    says:

    Alan remembers the March 2017 incident!

  • NR

    says:

    Sharp seems to just be the mouthpiece for the Singaporean Executive Chairman ‘LKH’, who has bullied many of his previous investors and employees from behind his laptop overseas. Comments on solvency are taken completely out of context and Sharp should not be making such comments as a Director of an ASX listed business without knowing all the facts – this is highly unprofessional and risky. Where are our corporate governance regulators reprimanding this behaviour.

    On this point and importantly, Rex’s financial performance has definitely been assisted by its ownership in the old SAAB aircraft. Many were purchased for very low amounts resulting in very low depreciation charge to the P&L due to their excessive useful lives as noted in their financial statements (i.e., making their profit look higher than other airlines). A pro forma financial position and performance of Rex based on aircraft replacement, which lets face it will be coming sooner rather than later, may not produce a similar financial result to what Rex has been showing over the past few years. This is a massive business risk, yet seems to not appear anywhere in key financial documents published on the ASX or its website to its investors – again, where are the corporate regulators in this country!!

    I think the web page Qantas has put together to address and acquisitions made by Rex is a good thing, especially as much of the information is likely to be incorrect.

    QF’s new SYD-GFF service (in competition with ZL) has been a hit and QF have already announced an upgrade to double daily. Direct services to SYD (without unnecessary triangulation with NRA for the odd one or two pax) is a big winner for business pax and will take pax away from Rex. Rex need to stop blaming a competitor if they offer a better service on a better product and realise that competition can help stimulate demand as well.

  • Ian Deans

    says:

    Why doesn’t Joyce just shut up about his competitors and concentrate on fixing the problems in his own airline.
    It’s this constant Qantas arrogance that puts me off no end.

  • Lynden Kemp

    says:

    Mr Joyce really is the tantrum man yet again throwing his toys out of the cot so to speak.
    He did the same with Virgin!
    Whilst criticing Rex aircraft he would be wise to take a close look at his airline’s record of mid flight incidents and engine issues.

    • Warwick

      says:

      Is ‘criticing’ even a word?

      If you’re referring to the QF32 incident ex SIN, this was found to be the fault of engine manufacturers Rolls-Royce, entirely.
      Nothing to do with QANTAS maintenance.
      A cheap, unworthy ‘go’ by you at the Company, without factual basis.

  • Martin

    says:

    Waiting for blabbermouth Sharp to respond to these facts.
    He’s gone very quiet since last Thursday.
    It’ll be interesting to see how long that ‘peaceful’ time lasts.
    Or is there something ‘behind the scenes’ happening with him?

  • Bill O Really?

    says:

    Al Joyce is all class, just ask every Qantas employee, they will tell you of his benevolence, beneficence and generosity of positive humanity. He really cares, oh yes. I wish I could work for such a man, I would help him out in any way possible. Take one for the man. Man of might and power. And knows how to use them and what is what, old Al. Helped the share price so much for so long now has Al. All because of his strong humanity and just outright cleverness.

  • Max

    says:

    Alan Joyce, the most petty individual in the airline industry.

  • AlanH

    says:

    John Sharp is an ex-politician, and a National Party one at that. That’s why he’s like he is. A leopard can’t change its spots. And he’s being driven by Rex’s owners in Singapore. Alan Joyce should just recognise that, move on and seek to prove Qantas’ worth through its performance. Forget all the sniping! It’s unbecoming at his level.

  • Saul Goodman

    says:

    Doesn’t REX have a CEO? Would Sharp be the most active mouthpiece as a Chairman in an Australian corporate at the moment ? With their foray into the jet market funded by the taxpayer should of they been renamed “CONAIR” or “AUGOVAIR”

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