Rex’s deputy chairman has admitted he’s had “tremendous fun” making comments towards rival airlines in the last 18 months.
John Sharp added his business “loves the fight” but said he is only defending Rex so strongly because it’s a “featherweight in the heavyweight section” battling to “stay in the ring”.
Sharp has been involved in a longstanding war of words with Qantas CEO Alan Joyce over the Flying Kangaroo’s decision to launch services on previously Rex-exclusive regional routes. Sharp has previously said of Alan Joyce that he doesn’t know how he can “look at himself in the mirror some mornings”.
Sharp was speaking exclusively to the Australian Aviation print magazine, out now. To find out more and subscribe, click here.
“We’ve had some tremendous fun in the last 18 months or so with our public utterances,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it enormously.
“We do it not because we want to say these things but because we want to survive. We want to grow.
“And that’s our purpose. And that’s why I know we will ultimately succeed in this. It’s just a question of patience and a modicum of luck.
“And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that perseverance is a very substantial quality to have, and that’s one thing Rex has proven we have.”
In the last 18 months, Sharp has called Qantas’ decision to launch services on previously Rex exclusive routes as “predatory”.
Joyce responded by saying Sharp had presided over what he called “the worst launch of a new jet airline in Australia’s aviation history, with empty aircraft and announced routes that have never been flown”.
Finally, speaking on the Australian Aviation Podcast last year, Sharp said Joyce saw himself as a “wizard” but was letting his company down.
“Qantas has got this arrogant approach that we’re too big to fail and an icon,” Sharp said. “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.”
It comes after Australian Aviation reported last week how the chairman of the competition watchdog, the ACCC, warned Qantas and Virgin against using their resources to drown out new market entrants.
Outgoing chairman Rod Sims said his organisation would be paying particular attention to the larger domestic airlines in the coming months to ensure they “do not fly new routes to damage competition”.
Sharp, meanwhile, used the new interview to reveal the business would stick to its ambitious plan to expand its 737 fleet from six to 14 this year, despite the impact of the Omicron slowdown.
However, he said the increase would likely be “a little slower” and come “a little later” than previously thought.
When asked how difficult the latest variant and its restrictions were for Rex, Sharp said, “Frustrating is the word that springs to mind. We thought we were reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. I mean, it’s been a long, dark tunnel since the commencement of COVID. And the light was there, shining brightly! But Omicron came along and dashed that hope.
“Having said that, there are always positives. I’m amazed at just how well everybody in our businesses has responded. It’s been very tough on many people in our business, who have been stood down for, in some cases, nearly 12 months over the last two years.
“We used to say, pre-COVID, that we did two schedules a year: summer and winter. Now we almost do a daily schedule.
“What’s happened with Omicron is people have had their own self-imposed lockdown and decided they’re not going to travel. Alternatively, they’re not travelling because they’ve got coronavirus, or they’re a close contact to somebody with it.”
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