Qantas has argued in WA Supreme Court that the only reason other airlines have agreed to charges imposed by Perth airport is that they couldn’t afford to mount a legal challenge.
The airline’s QC, John Sheahan, said this was even true of Virgin Australia, whose financial situation he described as being “quite weak” compared with Qantas’.
Perth Airport has accused Qantas of owing it $39 million over a six-month period in 2018 but only receiving $22.89 million.
It follows the airline not signing a new seven-year deal to use the airport’s facilities in July of 2018, leading to a disagreement as to the amount owed.
Sheahan insisted Qantas were looking only for a fair deal, and pointed to data released by the ACCC that suggested the amount of aeronautical revenue per passenger collected by Perth Airport had risen 60 per cent in six years.
“While airlines are making less, Perth Airport is doing very well,” said Sheahan.
Justice Rene Le Miere interjected to state that “when you say you’re making less, airfares have fallen but the number of passengers has increased, the revenue hasn’t actually fallen”.
Sheahan also criticised Perth Airport’s references to regulations stopping it from banning Qantas from using its facilities in the absence of a deal.
“If we remind ourselves why are we talking about this at all, it’s because Perth Airport wants to rely on deals it did with smaller airlines to justify the price it wants to charge Qantas,” he said.
“Rex is one of the airlines that did a deal. Its volume is a 30th of Qantas. An airline the size of Rex could not conceivably take on an entity of this scale. Qantas can afford to.
“Even though Perth wouldn’t exclude Virgin, the transaction costs involved in working out the right answer (on price) might be prohibitive for an organisation like Virgin.”
Earlier this week, Neil Young QC, representing Perth Airport, said Qantas had used its services and paid less than it should have, based on its own calculations rather than an agreed position.
“Qantas has continued to land planes at Perth Airport, carry freight, and to use the airport’s facilities and services without any agreement. Indeed, without any ongoing licence or right to operate terminals 3 and 4.
“Qantas has continued to refuse to pay a fair value for services and facilities since December 17, 2018. They have done so on the footing they do not need to make any commitments, whether short or long term. It’s done on the basis they will simply tender an amount of money they consider is sufficient.”
The case continues.