Qantas is the master of extracting special interest deals from regulators yet the dynamic duo running the airline, Margaret Jackson and Geoff Dixon, continue to complain about deals for rivals.
What is it with senior members of Qantas’ board? First there was the self-serving letter from CEO Geoff Dixon to The AFR last month, then his extensive briefing of an AFR reporter, while chairman ‘Dame’ Margaret Jackson weighted in with a rave of her own last week with the airline’s 2004 results: http://www.crikey.com.au/business/2004/08/20-0005.html)
Now the Dame has gone and done it again and the hypocrisy is simply stunning. Check out what AAP and The SMH reported on Friday. Not the sort of stuff you’d expect from one of Australia’s most powerful women, or so the Australian Women’s Weekly tells us this month.
Talk about self-interest and the company directors and business press soaked up the rubbish without a peep. This, remember, is the airline that has started two airlines in the past three years and is in the midst of starting a third in Asia, based in Singapore. Talk about one rule for us and one rule for everyone else!
To remind those of poor memory, Qantas has started Australian Airlines and Jetstar and is in the process of starting an Asian version of Jetstar, based in Singapore, with Singapore Inc (or Temasek Holdings, the government’s investment arm, run by the wife of the Prime Minister). So for her to say there should not be 210 different airlines operating around the world and the global airline industry needed
a complete restructure ranks as one of the prime examples of business hypocrisy seen for a while in this country.
The ‘Dame’ said that while historically the regulatory environment protected foreign-based carriers, as the world had been opened up it was becoming more evident that there should not be so many airlines in operation.
“In almost every industry you look at there tends to be less than 10 main players,” she said. “So the airline industry I think over the next 20 years will need to have a complete restructure.”
Ms Jackson warned it would be a “painful” process along the way, but said it was hard to see that happen without countries allowing restructuring to occur.
But, of course, that wouldn’t be allowed to happen to Qantas should Australian or Jetstar prove superflous to requirements. And naturally that should allow for Qantas to plant its foot on Air New Zealand, snuggle up to Singapore Airlines, and get rid of the Qantas Sales Act so it can flog itself to the first foreign airline that glances its way. Talk about self-serving nonsense.
But wait, there’s more. Here come the free steak knives. Remember how the “dame” and her boy Geoff have been tilting at unlevel playing fields and accusing the Government-owned Middle Eastern carriers of unfair competition. Which airline objects to attempts by Singapore Airlines and Cathay to fly out of Australia to the US West Coast? Qantas, of course.
And which airline has urged and obtained from the ACCC approval for the Joint Services Agreement with British Airways for the next five years? The JSA covers the Kangaroo route between Australia and London via Singapoore and Bangkok.
This is an agreement the ACCC allowed despite admitting that it was anti-competitive so far as business travellers are concerned, but not holiday type travellers. This ignored the fact that business travellers are prime source of the huge profits Qantas and BA earn on this route!
And which airline (along with its 18% shareholder British Airways) asked the ACCC to grant approval of the JSA indefinitely? This airline, its management and board have no shame in argument their special interests while trying to limit attempts by others to enter this market.
And why does she and Dixon keep trotting out the KLM-Air France Alliance? If that was a takeover with someone coming in to properly merge the two airlines then she might have something to be concerned about. But the deal sees the snuggling up of the two airlines under the one umbrella so as to protect the many bilaterals the two countries have with other countries around the world. Far from a nimble giant, the combined KLM-Lufthana looks more like a clumsy, high cost operator with all the bad habits and poor labour practices of France and Germany. Talk about a ‘straw’airline’ bogeyman.
And finally, there was no mention from the Qantas flacks about this big deal involving their new best friend in Asia. Singapore Airlines has ordered up to 31 Boeing 777ERs, Thai Airways has confirmed an order for 14 aircraft, also mainly long-range models, and now Philippine Airlines’ new President and COO, Jaime Bautista, has indicated the carrier’s current fleet size is limiting its opportunities. Elsewhere, the Chinese carriers are rapidly expanding their fleets, while Cathay Pacific targets a fleet of 100 aircraft within two years.
Remember that Qantas and Singapore are talking about co-operating on facilities to service the new Airbus A380 passenger jets and to train crews. No mention of any deal on the big Boeings, which represent quite a change for Singapore.
No doubt the ‘Dame’ and Geoff will find something threatening in these deals and will rush to print in the not too distant future. Keep reading The Australian Financial Review, the outlet for the airline’s special interest pleadings.