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Jan 25, 2005

Geoff Dixon and Les Cassar

Just who Geoff's mate is Les Cassar?

Just who Geoff’s mate is Les Cassar?

With Geoff Dixon and Brett Godfrey battling it out at airline seminars in Singapore this week, a Qantas person has revealed the closeness of the links with Les Cassar, the chap Dixon spent New Year with in the white-cloaked mountains of Colorado.

Here’s how we reported the Dixon break – Geoff Dixon’s holiday antics

That brought a narky reply from Chris Brown of the TTF letting us know that Les Cassar (his chairman) was a wonderful chap as was Geoff Dixon and Leighton Holdings (Dixon is a director at Leighton) – Brown and the Tourism Task Force

Well we can reveal that Les and Geoff are a bit closer than we thought. The Qantas informant says Les paid for and send a band of Marriachis to Dixon’s then home at Balmoral in Sydney on the occasion of the Qantas chief’s 25th wedding anniversary.

A nice, personal touch!

No wonder they shared a Lodge, with friends over the break.

Now Geoff’s in Singapore to check on Jetstar Asia, no doubt break bread with those ‘arch rivals’ at Singapore Airlines about sharing facilities to service the Airbus 280 Live Sheep carrier, and to chat to the locals about life in the airline fast lane.

But don’t mention the US routes.

One of these chats will be at a couple of talkfest in island state where he will encounter Brett Godfrey, $9 million richer from diversifying his investments by the sale of five million Virgin Blue shares in December (SMHAirline execs compare notes in Singapore).

Geoff’s been to Toulouse for the fun and festivities associated the launch of the giant Airbus.

While he’s been away a dogfight has erupted in the letters pages of The Australian Financial Review (strange how the paper never follows up these letters) between Paul Tan, Singapore Airline’s boss for Australia, and David Hawes, the chief lobbyist of Qantas.

Tan’s letter last week told AFR readers that Qantas did not care for consumers as it tried to limit competition on the Australia-US routes.

Hawes returned fire by accusing Singapore of ‘ignoring third party rights’ That claim was knocked down straight away by others as being silly and self serving and on Friday Paul Tan amplified that argument by pointing out that third party rights was a matter for Qantas and the Australian Government, not Singapore.

Tan said, “Qantas continues to perpetuate any argument it can to prevent consumers having greater access to competition on the Trans-Pacific route (letter from David Hawes, AFR, 18/1/05).

“The claim that it does not have the rights it wants to third countries conveniently ignores Qantas’s own role over many years in supporting a framework which guards it from competition.

“The real issue for Qantas in gaining more rights to the UK has nothing to do with Singapore. If Qantas wants more rights to and from the UK, then they should ask the UK!

“Qantas thinks it will be constrained on up to 60% of SIA’s network beyond Singapore. They omit the fact that this is not as a result of the Agreement with Singapore, which imposes virtually no restrictions – and to the effect that it imposes any, SIA favours abolishing all of them in the context of a genuine open skies agreement”

Finally Tan said, “When Regional Express withdrew its services from Canberra, citing Qantas’s market dominance, Geoff Dixon responded: “At the end of the day, the customer has the right to choose the best overall option for their business and travel needs, based on a range of factors including price, flexibility and service”. When it comes to the Trans-Pacific route, we couldn’t have said it better! This will no doubt bring a reply from Mr Hawes.

But there were two other letters regarding Qantas in the AFR.

Another on Friday, From a David Gerber of East Lindfield in Sydney, echoed the comments from Tan by suggesting that Qantas should use the lobbying talent so far shown to keep Singapore Airlines out, in trying to get greater access to “a variety of European countries”.

Today, a much longer letter from Zac Zussino of Yamba in NSW got stuck into those claims earlier this month from Qantas executive general manager, John Borghetti who defended the airlines against claims that standards had slipped.

Mr Zussino said “the bleating” of Mr Borghetti “is becoming tiresome and repetitive”.

He pointed out that in his opinions Qantas had slipped to the standard of Philippine Airlines, or United or Northwest.

“Even Thai and Malaysian are now well in front”.

He said Singapore, BA, Emirates, Gulf Air and Virgin Atlantic “leave Qantas for dead” and Qantas’s “P class, denoting premium, is a poor man’s business class”.

“Is it any wonder that seasoned business travellers now fly to the US via the island state of Singapore with Singapore Airlines in all three classes?”

He said the service and food and amenities “are all world class and light years ahead of what Geoff Dixon and Neil Perry would throw at us”.

Singapore, he said must be given access to the US from Australia.

A good letter, and I wonder if Qantas will reply to it and the other two, or will the order go out, ‘don’t say anything, let the dogs sleep, the talks with the Singaporeans and the Federal Government are approaching and we don’t want to provide any more ammunition’.

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