A row between Qantas and Canberra Aiport has ramped up over the weekend, with the airline claiming the airport’s behaviour was similar to that of Somali pirates.
The feud began when a plane was supposedly “held to ransom” at the airport, with the Qantas flight unable to depart from Canberra until $20,000 was paid.
The Qantas flight, which was diverted from Sydney to Canberra last year, was physically prevented from leaving Canberra Airport due to the unpaid fee.
However, Canberra Airport MD Stephen Byron has called those claims preposterous.
Sent to Qantas staff, the email, which is yet to be fact-checked, asks the airline to pay a total of $20,50.77, adding, “Please note the aircraft cannot depart until the invoice is paid.”
Now, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce likened the behaviour to that of “Somali pirates”.
“They actually ransomed one of our aircraft, I mean talk about appalling behaviour,” he said.
“I’ve never seen it in my nearly 30 years in the aviation industry where a pilot’s been told to pass over a credit card of $18,000 otherwise the aircraft can’t go.
“Maybe the airport should be called the Canberra Pirates, because you wouldn’t have this in Somalia.”
Meanwhile, Byron admitted to the plane being physically prevented from leaving, though claims Joyce had got his facts wrong.
“Qantas had landed two 747s unannounced and put other aircraft in danger, five weeks before this incident,” he said.
“This was an incident where Qantas had to be held to account in terms of safety and putting other aircraft at risk.
“There was no payment made at all, there was no dispute about payment.
“This was the last in a series of multiple incidents where unannounced, Qantas were diverting large international aircraft to Canberra Airport, and putting other aircraft that had planned and arrangements in place to divert to Canberra Airport in jeopardy.
“It is true that we said we want a dialogue before the plane leaves and a commitment that these unauthorised landings do not occur again and we got that commitment.”