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Flight Centre CEO blames lockdowns, not Joyce, for Qantas ills

written by Casey Martin | September 30, 2022

Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner (Flight Centre)

The chief executive of Flight Centre, Graham Turner, has said “ineffective lockdowns” were more to blame for Qantas’ troubles than CEO Alan Joyce.

Turner added state premiers and former prime minister Scott Morrison made “rash decisions” based on “little science” that ultimately caused “devastating outcomes”.

It comes amid criticism that Joyce’s annual salary increased by 15 per cent to $2.27 million despite a string of problems to plague the business, including record delays and hours-long call wait times.

Writing in The Australian, Turner said, “History will show or has already shown that shutting borders and dictating widespread lockdowns not only were ineffective in stopping COVID-19’s spread but caused enormous societal and collateral damage.”

He wrote that the lockdowns were a decision made with little thought and that instead, money should have been distributed across the health system to protect the most vulnerable who “easily could be identified”.


“We in the travel and hospitality industry believe the concept of shutting down whole states and countries…was accepted by many politicians and some public health officials with no thought of studying alternative policies or understanding the cost versus the overall benefits.”

In terms of where to place the blame for these issues, Graham Turner has his finger pointed firmly at the government, stating that he hoped lessons have been learnt.

He wrote, “So Alan Joyce is getting the blame for significant service issues when he has had to start up a significant global airline almost from scratch after two years.

“In Australia, lockdowns cost the government hundreds of billions of dollars in support benefits that would have been better spent on protecting the vulnerable and providing a great health system. And Joyce and his team are still getting the blame.”

Turner has been a long-standing critic of lockdowns and border closures. In a similar newspaper column last year he argued lockdowns were “an idea [that] originated in the veterinary and livestock industry”.

Turner’s defence of Joyce comes after Qantas chairman Richard Goyder argued his executive team had done “exceptionally well” in a strongly-worded riposte to the CEO’s critics.

His own 900-word opinion piece argued most aviation companies globally are grappling with the same problems as Qantas.

“This is what happens when you shut down an entire sector for more than two years,” he wrote. “Companies make deep cuts to survive. Skilled people walk away because the uncertainty seems endless.”

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Comments (8)

  • Rod Pickin


    At the beginning of the Fed. Govt’s actions over the pandemic I thought it correct to close our national borders pending clarification of the consequences of Covid. I also thought it was a very good idea to form a “National Cabinet” as we would be all inclusive and respond as one. Crikey, look what happened, absolute chaos, financial ruin and or hardship for almost all of us, state governments acting individually, communities, families and close friends separated and those of us “border residents” harassed by state troopers, businesses shut down maybe not to reopen and the nation on its financial knees. Meanwhile the politicians who orchestrated the debacle either continue as if nothing happened and or get voted out or retired. No consequences for them, the rest of us now have to live and pay for the mess that governments created maybe for the rest of our lives. Thank you for your article Mr. Turner, Alan Joyce did not cause the QF mess, he just has to manage it and I don’t envy him the task.

    • Kym


      Thanks Rod, well said. Your comments are spot on.

  • Sivaji


    Alan sacked staff despite the nearly a billion dollars support given to him by Scott Morrison. Their many aims are to kill the unionist workforce. He should be gone as CEO many years ago. Too long on the job

    • Vannus


      How about the TWU calling their members’ out on strike everyday from beginning of August, to end of October 2011 inclusive?

      QANTAS was losing ONE MILLION $ a day income, during this time.
      Did the Union care? Not one jot.

      One TWU individual, who rose to higher ranks, said ‘we are going to bake QANTAS slowly’.

      So the QANTAS Board, & its’ CEO Mr Alan Joyce did what they needed to do to get their business working again, they took the unheard of move of grounding the fleet.
      This is something that the TWU hasn’t forgiven the Company for, & is still causing it as many problems’ as they legally can, to this day, such is the TWU’s hubris against the Company.

      During those three months’ of upheaval, thanks to the TWU, QANTAS staff were being physically hit, & verbally abused by passengers’ at the airports’, with AFP having to be called upon many times’.
      Their capital city Ticket Offices’ had to have Police at their doors’ to stop passengers’ abusing, & threatening staff.

      Their Call Centre staff were being obscenely verbally abused over their ‘phones by disgruntled passengers’.

      The QANTAS Board & CEO couldn’t let that those types’ of situations’ continue.
      Something had to be done to stop the rot.

      And stop it, QANTAS did.

      The GHS who were terminated have only themselves to blame, due to the above scenarios’. No company can afford that huge loss that was brought about by those TWU members’ going on strike, daily.

      These are facts that the TWU never bothers to mention, ever.

  • AgentGerko


    Very disappointed in Mr Turners views and the fact he apparently didn’t mention the decision by Mr Joyce to screw all the agents that assisted QF during Covid by reducing our commission by 80% down to a miserly 1% commission. I suppose when you’ve got a billion dollars you don’t need to worry about such things as trying to scrape a living out of selling airfares.

  • Tom Atkinson


    CEO Turner is 100% correct. Our so-called experts and “leaders” have delivered what should eventually be seen as the biggest stuff up in the history of humanity.

    A stuff up made bigger by the fact that every state and territory had pandemic plans in place for exactly the eventuality that was Covid19. Those plans were the product of decades of experience and expert input.

    Our timid “leaders” succumbed to the media firestorm, however, panicked, and threw out those pandemic plans in the headlong rush to copy China’s lockdown idea. Like Lemmings rushing off the cliff, almost every Western country and state did the same.

  • Adam Watts


    Graham Turner it seems has no idea what he is talking about. The lack of skilled workers in aviation, particularly ground handling is a direct result of the outsourcing of jobs. Once upon a time this was a great industry to work in until these third party ground handling companies started arriving on the scene. Slowly but surely, pay and conditions for workers were being eroded as ground handlers undercut one another to win contracts as the airlines were looking to get it done cheaper and cheaper. This started about 20 years ago, long before Covid. Whilst Covid and travel restrictions have certainly played a part in the issues facing Qantas today, the decision to outsource ground handling has played an even more significant part as few people are willing to work for the poor pay and conditions on offer. For the 20 years that I was working there, Qantas had always been threatening to outsource our jobs, even when they were making record profits. Qantas can only blame themselves for the staff shortages they are facing today, they had an experienced and dedicated workforce who were willing to ride out the restrictions and return to work when things picked up, however instead they decided to sack us all. Today they are facing staff shortages not because of government restrictions but because few people are willing to work for the poor pay and conditions on offer. Staffing issues will continue long after Covid has gone unless Qantas and the rest of the industry dramatically improve working conditions.

  • A predictable comment from Graham Turner of course, business at any cost, before general health and well being of the population. Having just recovered from COVID, I can tell you, it does knock you around, and not just ””a bit like the flu”

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