By a former Qantas employee familiar with hospitality offered to MPs

Qantas
employs a man in Canberra, David Hawes, who works full time on lobbying
and attending to the travelling needs of MPs. Hawes is a quiet
intellect with a retentive memory for what people say and do. He
remembers MPs needs, interests and desires and has profiles on many of
them.

For instance, I am told by someone still there that when
the issue about Singapore coming onto the Australia-US route started
getting real support in the Government, he got HR to give him a list of
staff numbers broken down by residence in Federal electorates. He used
this to positively spook people like Bruce Baird, Bob Baldwin and
others – who have large numbers of Qantas staff in their electorates –
about the impact on Qantas of job cuts if the Pacific was opened up.

But
it’s the gravy train that Crikey has rightly drawn attention to. Let’s
be frank – this isn’t new. Qantas has been doing it for years. When I
was there, I was periodically told to process the approvals for the
upgrades for MPs, spouses, children and many other hangers-on – even
people who the politicians would ring up and ask to have looked after.

I
don’t doubt they stepped this up to epidemic proportions in the lead-up
to the cabinet decision on the US route. But they do it all the time.
There are also some MPs who Qantas know unashamedly ask for perks.
They’ll have no hesitation in making sure they “always let Qantas know
when they’re travelling”, just to make sure the hospitality is
well-prepared and planned for, and there aren’t slip-ups with people
not knowing!

Do you know Qantas have a Premium Passenger Service
Centre that has a few staff that just looks after the MPs? This is far
more than handling the bookings. It also means processing the upgrades,
clearing the waitlists (no such thing as a full flight for our pollies)
and even advising MPs which flights are the best to travel on for
upgrades. For instance, if there’s three flights to London, which one
has the lightest load up the front, so the pollie can be upgraded
without any problem.

It isn’t just the Government, because the
Federal Opposition are just as bad. There’s an expectation on the part
of several Opposition MPs that they’ll be well and truly looked after
as well, and Qantas invests well in the future!

Finally, I’m
told several MPs actually believe Singapore shouldn’t be allowed on the
Pacific route because they don’t look after Canberra nearly as well.
Singapore, like the other airlines, also do the occasional upgrade, but
with them, you’ve got to be lucky with the timing. Upgrades are usually
more to do with overbookings in economy than who you are.

Therefore,
if you fly over Christmas, when the economy loads are full and the
business loads are weak, you’ve got a chance, but if you ask Singapore,
Emirates or Cathay during the normal times of the year, getting an
upgrade on them would be like striking gold. Not so with Qantas and our federal politicians.

Peter Fray

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