Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner, the CEO of Flight Centre, has lashed out at the Government’s recent decision to block an additional 21 flights per week to Australia by Qatar Airways.
The Federal Government sought out the opinion of Qantas as part of Qatar Airways’ application process for bilateral air rights, but Qantas opposed the bid saying it would cause Australian job losses, according to The Australian.
Catherine King, the transport minister that blocked Qatar Airways’ bid for additional capacity, said the airline’s request was “not in our national interest”. However, many in the industry, including Skroo, have criticised this, believing Qantas to be in the pocket of the Government.
“I think it’s basic logic that [King’s decision is] against the national interests. The only business it’s in the interests of is Qantas,” Skroo told Travel Weekly.
He said that if he was in Alan Joyce’s position, he’d want to do the exact same thing.
“You want to lessen [the] competition that you possibly can and that’s what happened,” he said.
Skroo believes that this decision came from a position above King.
I’ve heard that Catherine – she’s a reasonably competent minister, and I’m almost certain that this was not her decision… It almost certainly came from higher up in the government.”
When asked if he believes the decision came from Albanese himself, Skroo said he’d heard this, but couldn’t confirm it.
“That’s that’s what I hear. I have no proof of that, but that’s what I hear,” he told Travel Weekly.
The Flight Centre CEO said the desire for more capacity in Australia is widespread across the industry as high international airfares continue.
“It just makes no logical sense,” Skroo continued. “They’re a very good carrier. I know, with the examination of those Australian women, that was a negative thing, but you really can’t blame the airline for that or we wouldn’t be flying to half the countries we’re flying.”
Skroo also noted that the business around securing slots at Sydney Airport was related to the decision. The “restrictive” slot buying has limited the range of airlines entering and Skroo said that the Government needs to “get its act together” to help the average Australian who wants to fly internationally.
“It’s a government regulation issue. And this is not just Qantas doing this but Virgin. If I was them, I’d be doing it because it stops competition. If I could stop Helloworld growing or expanding, well, that would be a natural business thing to do.”
He continued, “I’m not blaming Qantas or Virgin for this, but it’s a government decision. And the government – that’s what they’re elected for, to make these things happen. [With] Qatar, that’s an absolute debacle and it probably comes from the highest levels of government.”
Taking a similar stance as Skroo towards the Qatar Airways blocking was AFTA CEO Dean Long who did not believe that King’s decision was in our national interest.
“We believe that an airline that continued to fly during the pandemic and from my understanding brought more vaccines than any other airlines into this country to get us reopened again, that they should be granted these additional rights,” Long said.
“We think it’s a good thing for competition.”
New figures have revealed that blocking Qatar Airways from adding 21 weekly flights to Australia will cost more than half a billion dollars per annum in tourism revenue.
The Australian Financial Review said it has seen numbers from airline industry sources that detail a cost of between $540-788m in annual economic activity. This figure is based on approximately half the seats being sold to foreign visitors.
Featured Image: Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner (Kat Stanley Photography)
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