Hamilton Island residents are up in arms over Qantas’s decision to switch to Jetstar, however, Qantas CEO, Geoff Dixon has little sympathy for their plight and even went into print in The Fin to tell them just how he felt.

Geoff Dixon sprays Hamilton Island millionaires

Crikey email – 30 November

You have to take
your hat off to Qantas CEO, Geoff Dixon, he certainly knows how to
write a good letter, especially when it’s to his preferred outlet, The Australian Financial Review.

Readers of Crikey
will have realised by now that sometimes Geoff can be a bit one-eyed, a
bit too focused, and a bit driven in his commentaries.

His writings to the AFR arguing
Qantas’ case to the exclusion of that of consumers, has become a bit
tiresome. There is more to the airline business than just keeping
Qantas and his board and shareholders sweet. That’s also something only
dimly understood in Canberra.

But Geoff’s letter writing to the AFR
continues and this morning he delivered an almighty serve at the paper
(indirectly) and those people it reported in a front page feature last
Friday complaining about the Jetstar service to Hamilton Island.

There were quite a
few whinges and moans from rich folk on both Hamilton and nearby Hayman
island, as they complained about how Jetstar was bringing the ‘wrong
sort of people’ to the Whitsunday playgrounds. It seems these were not
the sort of people that the wealthy residents and owners of both
islands wanted to deal with.

And, not only that,
but the ‘right sort of people’ had to sit next to the ‘wrong sort of
people’ when flying Jetstar. How dare Qantas/Jetstar!

As a piece of page
one snobbery, it has been rarely exceeded in an Australian media outlet
in recent years. Only some of the guff in Australian Gourmet Traveller would come close. But to his credit, the boy from Wagga Wagga has returned fire.

And we quote his letter from today’s AFR:

I read with compassion your “Beautiful one day…cattle class the next” on Jetstar’s services to Queensland’s Hamilton Island.

My heart goes out to
those millionaires who are forced, when not reclining on their luxury
yachts, to travel by air alongside their fellow Australians.

It must be dreadful
for the secluded elite of Hamilton Island (including apparently, its
management and owners) to observe ordinary holidaymakers enjoying
themselves and boosting the local economy. I can only suggest that the
millionaires of Hamilton Island start their own airline so they can be
spared the indignity of quality cut-price travel – and so that
Jetstar’s many happy customers can be spared the indignity of their

Everybody will then be happy, including Qantas.

That’s in the class
of man bites dog, i.e. an interesting story when the CEO, a
millionaire, criticises the snobbery of his fellow rich.

With a board
including James Packer, the heir to the country’s richest man, it is a
brave step for Geoffie to write such an ‘up you’ letter to the
newspaper of choice for so many of the wealthy on Hamilton Island.

You can only admire
his attitude while he has also attacked the frequent flier rights of
those Hamilton Islanders and others with an axe, cutting the value of
accumulated points by 20% or more.

But Geoffie should
have a close look at Jetstar, for while things seem to be going well we
hear there are a lot of unhappy golfers trying to travel on the airline
this summer and discovering that the golfing equipment they use to make
their living, can make a Jetstar budget flight as expensive as a Qantas
full fare. But Qantas does not fly to a lot of the places the golfers
want to go, such as the Sunshine Coast in Queensland this week.

And speaking of the
deep north, I have heard of a disaster for Jetstar two weekends ago on
the Sunshine Coast when the afternoon flight from Sydney did not
arrive, forcing the cancellation of the return flight to Sydney that

That forced Jetstar to try and load people onto Qantas flights out of Brisbane that night and provide a bus trip.

Those who opted to
book Jetstar the next day, Sunday and stay Saturday night on the
Sunshine coast, found that their flight the next day was also missing,
and not operating.

The smart travellers
had booked on Virgin Blue and escaped south. Some have been converted
to the virtues of Chris Corrigan’s budget priced airline.

But despite all that, a good Aussie letter Geoffie. Happy Flying!

It’s a pity the AFR didn’t have the whit to spot it and turn it into a page one counter to last week’s appalling piece of snobbery.

Tabloids jump on “snobs in paradise”

Crikey email – 1 December

Trust The Australian Financial Review to again miss a good colour story. Colour and humour are not words freely associated with editor, Glenn Burge.

Trust also the capacity of the News Ltd tabloids, Melbourne’s Herald Sunand Sydney’s Daily Telegraphto grab the story, beat it up but then to drop an important attribution.

I’m talking about the yarn in yesterday’s Crikey sealed edition which highlighted a well-written letter in the AFR
from Qantas CEO, Geoff Dixon, getting stuck into the residents of
Hamilton Island in Queensland who had complained about the Jetstar
service in a front page feature in last Friday’s AFR.

Crikey wondered about why the AFR missed Geoffie’s latest letter and we described the article of last Friday as an appalling example of snobbery.

Well, guess what the Daily Telegraph did, all over Page three this morning “Snobs in Paradise”, while the Hun had ” Invasion of budget yobs”, a very Fleet Street headline.

Seeing Crikey was the first to raise the ‘snobs’ angle, perhaps we can
claim some inspiration. Probably not, but the News tabloids were a bit
slow on this story. It was around on Friday morning, and the follow-up
was on Wednesday. What’s betting that Seven’s Today Tonight or A Current Affair on Nine chase the story in the next week or so and claim it as their own.

Then it will be news.

I reckon the News Ltd tabloidsters read the AFR yesterday
and saw Geoffie’s quite direct, ‘up yours’ letter getting into the
Hamilton Island folk objecting to Jetstar, and then went to the files
to look at the story in last Friday’s AFR.

But the News Ltd journos were also a bit naughty. They quoted from
Geoffie’s letter, without attributing it as a letter. The quote used in
the story was taken from the letter to the AFR.

And the AFR itself, still waiting to see any follow to a good story it started last Friday but has so far failed to finish off.

The AFR today though did had a good story from Chanticleer
columnist, John Durie, revealing that at long last Telstra chief, Ziggy
Switkowski, is on the way out.

That was on page one. But in the Rear Window column inside the paper
there was some scepticism, noting that the Ziggy to leave rumour was
again around, after surfacing last week (and driving up the Telstra
share price by 10c). This time the rumours had David Murray from the
CBA to takeover, with Gail Kelly leaving St George to return to the CBA.

Rear Window could have pointed out that Gail was no longer a contender,
having re-signed with the Dragon two weeks ago, and David Murray’s next
move will be out of the Bank, probably early.

But the difference in tone to the page one and Chanticleer columns was interesting, to say the least.

And meanwhile, up at Hamilton Island they’re still muttering.

The problem Geoff Dixon has with his staff

A retired Qantas veteran writes:

I spent just on 40 years with Qantas,
the last 10 “up front and personal” with CEO Geoff Dixon. Geoff enjoys
his new found status as it is not often that a failed hack from Wagga
Wagga, after enjoying many postings overseas with DFAT as a scribe and
PR man for Australia, bullies his way into a job with an airline and
ends up as the boss of Qantas.

Sadly Geoff has outgrown his initial
enthusiasm described to me and others as being the “custodian of the
greatest iconic brand in Australia” and now simply describes to a
lacklustre Board (including the Chairman who has never turned right
when entering an aircraft through the front left hand door) how best he
can screw the employees by using his “junk yard dog”, (Ian Oldmeadow)
to pay off and bludgeon the unions and achieve the necessary bench
marks results to ensure Geoff and his management team get a bigger
slice of the bonus “cake” in Septemebr each year. It is a bloody
tragedy that those who continue to keep the airline afloat are the ones
who get no recognition and cop new demands to cut costs on a monthly

Geoff’s retort to the residents of Hamilton Island is so typical of a
man who has lost sight of his roots and is hard pressed to count his
close friends on one hand. I would wager that he has never been on a
cattle class Jetstar flight and never will! Recently when Geoff and his
estranged wife, Dawn boarded a flight in London bound for Sydney, Geoff
used every profanity to both check-in staff and cabin crew when he
found they were not seated together. (I can get avadavits testifying to
this incident).

So much for the poor punters who pay
top dollars to fly up front and then have the so called “champion of
the customer”, Geoff demand that they change seats so he and his wife
can sit together! (bear in mind that neither Mr nor Mrs Dixon payed a
cent to travel in the front of the plane!)

Like most stories in Qantas, the
incident spread like wildfire throughout the rank and file proving yet
again that Qantas is a “do as I say, not do as I do” organisation. I
continue to be amazed that intelligent captains of industry in
Australia have this misconception that they continue to support an
Australian “icon” when, in reality, Dixon and by default the Qantas
Board continue to try and defranchise the Australian content of Qantas.

Their latest foray into Singapore with
the help of the Singapore Government is to try and set up competition
for Singapore Airlines. They think that Singapore is a soft touch and
will agree to a plan that makes their national carrier and largest
foreign currency earner defunct! How bloody stupid is that by Qantas!

In my view, Qantas needs a hugh shake up. Firstly get rid of at least
half the directors on the Board who are “grace and favour” appointees
then get someone like Rod Eddington to run the place. At least then you
would have a board and management team who could both recognise the
employees’ contribution without alienating them and appease the
investors by returning reasonable results, something this current board
and management haven’t done. Have a look at the Qantas share price and
then exclude all the imaginary reasons Geoff offers as to why it hasn’t
moved in a northerly direction, and you will appreciate what I am

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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