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Virgin says government is designing public policy to benefit Qantas

written by Jake Nelson | August 28, 2023

Two Qatar Airways Boeing 777s in 2022 FIFA World Cup livery at Doha. (Image: Qatar Airways)

Virgin Australia has slammed statements by Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones indicating that blocking extra flights into Australia by Qatar Airways would protect Qantas’s sustainability.

The Assistant Treasurer, in comments to The Australian Financial Review, maintained the federal government’s line that knocking back Qatar’s request for additional air rights was “in the national interest”, and added that Qantas’s massive $2.5bn annual profit was “a good news story”.

“We can drive prices down but if we drive them down to a level where it’s actually unsustainable to run an airline, instead of having two carriers we will design our markets in a way which will make it unsustainable for the existing Australian-based carrier,” he said.

“We have a viable [airline] industry in Australia, and we always want to ensure we’re doing things to drive down the cost of airline tickets, but we want to ensure that they do that in a way that doesn’t destroy the industry over the medium and long term.”

Virgin Australia chief corporate affairs & sustainability officer, Christian Bennett, reaffirmed comments he made to a Senate inquiry in Adelaide last week that denying codeshare partner Qatar extra flights would give Qantas an advantage.


“Australian consumers are paying on average 50 per cent more today for international flights than they did in 2019. This is due to a lack of capacity. Denying Qatar additional flights keeps airfares between Australia and Europe unnecessarily higher than need be and denies the Australian tourism industry over $500 million in economic stimulus,” he said in a statement.

“Any suggestion that denying Qatar additional flights was designed to protect Qantas’ medium-to-long-term sustainability neglects the fact that blocking Qatar damages the domestic and international competitive position of Virgin Australia in favour of Qantas.

“Virgin Australia delivers great value and great choice to Australian consumers every day. It is the main source of competition to the Qantas Group, and that task is challenging enough without Qantas having public policy designed for its benefit.”

Qantas has long opposed the expansion of Qatar’s air rights, but CEO Alan Joyce would not tell a Senate inquiry on cost of living on Monday whether he had personally lobbied the Prime Minister or Transport Minister on the subject.

“Any conversations I have with the Prime Minister or a minister I never divulge. I’ve kept that for all seven Prime Ministers and I have no intention of changing my approach,” he said.

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Comments (2)

  • The Qatar website shows flight to/from ADL-BNE-CBR only. One has to ask the question, why not SYD-MEL-PER as well?

  • One just has to face facts, over the recent years QF has been thinking low, not ahead. Its fine to say we want to go back into Paris but how many times have we done that and quit; what about Frankfurt, Rome, Athens, Amsterdam too. Did we rid ourselves of a gate at LHR as well?????? – over recent years QF has run a budget, not an airline and yes we have to have both the latter of course needing practical vision and sadly we haven’t been performing too well in that arena allowing our competitors an advantage. As for equipment well, sadly we have fallen behind badly and not re-equipped as did others. In this regard I said at the time that if QF had any vision they will take up the complete Virgin Oz. B777-300ER business centre which was then available, that would have filled the operational gap for the following 10 years and assist our profitability. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that, interesting to note that QATAR took onboard the majority of those aircraft, if we had done so we would not have found ourselves in the current mess. Sadly I think yes, it is another wrong move by QF to lobby against Qatar’s request for further flights after all, we caused the problem in the first place. I wish you well AJ, a shame that your departure is on such a note.

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