Alan Joyce compares WA to North Korea while QantasLink boss stokes feud with “cockatoo airline”

Pyongyang, North Korea - August 16, 2013: A solitary pedestrian is dwarfed under the massive portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. These two images are an imposing feature of Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang.

Qantas is stirring the pot in a big way this week, with its CEO doubling down on recent comments comparing Western Australia with one of the world’s most repressive dictatorships, while its QantasLink boss strengthens the airline’s feud with Rex.

Let’s start off with Alan Joyce’s wildly hyperbolic WA comments, shall we?

Last week, Joyce told Melbourne-based Nine Radio’s talkback show that WA’s hard border had divided the country “a bit like Korea is divided,”, which is quite controversial if you ask us.

Joyce later told the ABC he was not describing WA’s state government as a dictatorship, but he stood by his comment nonetheless.

“And it feels like we have a part that is like North Korea, that is very restricted in parts of what the people can do in terms of travel,” he said.

“And I think that is the way people feel.”

The airline CEO has been quite critical of the state’s closed border after its planned reopening was cancelled indefinitely just two weeks before it was set to open.

When asked about Joyce’s comments, a spokesperson for Premier Mark McGowan said the state was focusing on the health of WA citizens and keeping businesses operating smoothly.

“These types of trivial comments from some in the east are hardly new,” the spokesperson said.

“Throughout the pandemic, Qantas has benefited from our decisions that have kept our FIFO-based resources sector operating, which meant FIFO flights continued during COVID.

“Qantas has also benefited from our record intrastate travel boom, which has been driven by the West Australian government’s significant investment in making flights more affordable.”

Meanwhile, the airline’s regional arm has been busy antagonising its competition, with Qantaslink CEO John Gissing referring to Rex as a “cockatoo airline”.

Earlier this week, Qantas announced it would add Broken Hill to its domestic roster for the first time, with direct flights from Sydney kicking off in April.

Rex has been the only airline to traverse the route for 18 years, and its deputy chairman John Sharp reckons Qantas added the route in retaliation for Rex’s expansion into metropolitan routes.

“Qantas obviously isn’t happy with Rex going into the domestic airline business, flying in competition with them in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide,” Sharp told ABC News.

“They don’t like that and they’ve made lots of complaints to various people about our behaviour in moving into that market.

“So in retaliation they’ve been moving into our regional market, our traditional market.”

Sharp also accused Qantas of unnecessarily “swamping” the market, but said that Rex is up for the competition.

“We are constantly looking at the schedule and trying to adjust to suit the market conditions and we will obviously keep doing that,” he said.

“I mean [Qantas’ entrance] will impact on what we do in some form or another; We’ll probably shift schedules around a little bit to try and be even more competitive with Qantas and try and match whatever they’re doing and do it better and cheaper for the passengers.”

Gissing hit back by suggesting Rex was all talk and said the competition would be good for the regional Australia market.

“We hear a lot about that airline,” he told ABC News.

“Some people in aviation call them the cockatoo airline, lots of squawking. But sometimes you can’t work out what they’re actually on about.”

Featured image: Kim Il Sung Square, North Korea (iStock/Goddard_Photography)

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