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.”