Aviation

Qantas’ bitter court stoush with Perth Airport continues

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

The Supreme Court of Western Australia has ordered Qantas to hand over information relating to the profitability of Perth routes and airport fees.

In an ongoing court case over allegedly unpaid airport fees, Qantas has been ordered to provide Perth Airport with information relating to fees or prices charged by the airline to other Australian airports.

The airline must also provide information on the profitability of its Perth route, including its lucrative long-haul services between the WA capital and London.

Qantas and Perth Airport are currently navigating an ongoing legal dispute in the Supreme Court of Western Australia over allegedly unpaid fees by the airline to the airport, which began in 2018.

Perth Airport claims it is owed $11.3 million for “aeronautical services provided to Qantas”, according to a Supreme Court order released in December, last year.

Qantas has, however, sought and been granted an extension of time to supply certain documents, as a result of the enormous volume of relevant material.

According to the court report, 242,724 documents were in the relevant database, with around 175,000 to be reviewed by a mixed team of up to 11 junior, paralegal and experienced lawyers. As well as two specialist discovery technology managers.

Qantas International chief executive Tino La Spina told The Australian the dispute was evidence of a “broken regulatory system that allowed monopoly airports to charge whatever they like”.

Travel Weekly has contacted Qantas for comment.

Qantas recently highlighted its ongoing battle with Perth Airport during the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the economic regulation of airports. At the time, it said the case was an example of why a more efficient system was needed to resolve disputes between airports and airlines.

Speaking to Travel Weekly, a Perth Airport spokesperson said their preference was for a commercial agreement to be reached, and that it had reached agreement with 25 out of 26 airlines operating at the airport, which was “clear evidence that our approach to pricing is both fair and reasonable”.

The spokesperson added Perth Airport has made “numerous” offers to Qantas to try to secure an agreement, the most recent made in in mid-December.

“Our door remains open to further discussions,” the spokesperson said.

In late 2019, however, airports were found not to be misusing their market power by the inquiry, defeating airlines’ claims Australia’s airports were also operating as monopolies.

At the time, Qantas’ and Virgin Australia’s CEOs, Alan Joyce and Paul Scurrah, argued that airports were to blame for higher domestic ticket prices as a result of increased fees placed on carriers.

According to the Productivity Commission’s findings, a new independent arbitrator was also not necessary, despite it being one of the key demands from airlines and having the support of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). 

The report did, however, find that regulatory arrangements for airlines to access Sydney airport should be improved and that international airline fees at both Sydney and Brisbane airports were relatively high.

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