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‘Wizard’ Joyce is failing his employees, says Rex’s Sharp

written by Adam Thorn | May 26, 2021
John Sharp (centre) welcomes the inaugural Adelaide-Melbourne flight.

Rex deputy chairman John Sharp has told the Australian Aviation Podcast that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce sees himself as a “wizard” but is actually failing his staff, customers and shareholders.

“Alan is such a hypocrite. It’s amazing that he can look at himself in the mirror some mornings,” said Sharp.

The Australia-based head of Rex was speaking on Friday ahead of the show’s release this week, where he will for the first time talk about the airline’s extraordinary last 12 months that saw it transition from COVID-induced crisis to launching domestic services.

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The comments follow a long-running war of words between the pair, which has previously seen Joyce mock Rex’s “empty aircraft” and Sharp argue that his rival is “technically insolvent”.

On the show, Sharp was asked about the argument between the airlines, which have for months been launching services to destinations previously exclusive to each other.

“Qantas has got this arrogant approach that we’re too big to fail and that we’re an icon,” said Sharp. “We play We Still Call Australia Home in the cabin to remind people that we’re the Australian airline. They call themselves a national carrier, but they’ve been privatised. They’re this big bully.”

Sharp said Qantas was only rivalling Rex on smaller routes so it could remove Rex and then monopolise them for itself.

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When asked if Rex was hypocritical for criticising Qantas while also launching new capital city services, Sharp conceded it was a “good argument” but there were crucial differences between the circumstances.

“Competition is competition and don’t we want it? Of course we do,” he said.

However, he argued the difference was that the Golden Triangle between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane was comparable to the most lucrative route in the world, between London and New York, but had far less competitors.

“Melbourne to Sydney has only two airlines, Qantas and Virgin, and the prices are high. And they’re much higher than they should be,” said Sharp.

“And it’s for that reason that people argue that Sydney Melbourne route is the most profitable airline written in the world. Qantas and Virgin have got it.”

He argued the route had “plenty of capacity” to absorb more competition but the smaller Rex routes barely have enough demand to justify one airline.

“Their real purpose is to harm us for having the temerity to go into a market, which has, in the case of Sydney to Melbourne, more than 10 million passengers a year in pre-COVID times.”

Qantas has long disputed Rex’s claims, previously arguing that “Unlike Rex, we welcome competition on the routes we fly.”

The row between the two airlines began in February when Rex accused Qantas of uncompetitive behaviour by launching rival services on its previously exclusive routes such Melbourne–Merimbula and Melbourne to Wagga Wagga.

Despite the argument, the flag carrier ploughed on, and Rex itself continued with its own plan to launch capital city routes.

“Rex’s idea of competition is that it’s something that happens to other people, because they believe they have an enshrined right to be the only carrier on some regional routes,” Qantas said.

Rex’s capital city expansion has included flights to CanberraGold Coast and Adelaide, as well as Sydney and Melbourne.

Last month, Joyce and Sharp exchanged withering newspaper columns about each other in the AFR.

“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.”

It came after Sharp wrote that 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.

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