Pilots have joined a chorus of anger against Qantas as scrutiny continues of the airline’s role in a government decision to reject extra Qatar Airways flights.
A parliamentary committee is examining the role Qantas’ lobbying played in the government’s decision to knock back the extra flights, as well as Australia’s bilateral air agreements more broadly.
It will hold hearings in Brisbane on Tuesday and in Canberra on Wednesday.
Among those giving evidence of Tuesday are the Productivity Commission, Alliance Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Australia-Qatar Business Council, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a number of airports and unions.
Transport Minister Catherine King has defended her decision to knock back the flights on national interest grounds but hasn’t elaborated on what that was.
Qatar’s air authority has questioned the decision, given it has less flights than other Gulf nations and took aim at Qantas “negatively lobbying” against its expansion.
The Qatar Civil Aviation Authority accused Qantas of protecting its commercial interests over increasing competition for Australian consumers.
“Qantas has no reason for making such negative statements, except for the benefit of their commercial relationship with Emirates,” it wrote in a November 2022 pitch to the government that was not for public circulation.
“Unfortunately, it is evident that both airlines are interested in blocking Qatar Airways’ growth in Australia.
“The media allegations and negative lobbying against Qatar Airways do not reflect the strong relationship that Qatar Airways has developed with Australia.”
Qatar’s 28 flights compares to Emirates’ 84 weekly flights and Etihad’s 63, and could add more than $3 billion in economic benefits over five years, it said.
Qantas chairman Richard Goyder is also facing calls to resign in an unprecedented intervention after weeks of bad press.
The Australian and International Pilots Association has called for him to step down, the first time in its history, and has written to the airline’s CEO Vanessa Hudson about its decision.
The association’s president Tony Lucas blasted Mr Goyder for overseeing “one of the most damaging periods in Qantas’ history”.
‘(It) included the illegal sacking of 1700 workers, allegations of illegally marketing cancelled flights and a terribly managed return to operations after COVID-19,” he said.
“The morale of Qantas pilots has never been lower, we have totally lost confidence in Goyder and his board.”
Mr Goyder’s $100,000 pay rise to $750,000 “while staff are expected to accept a two-year wage freeze” was also in the association’s sights.
“This is a galling and tone-deaf decision,” Mr Lucas said.
“For our great national carrier to flourish, it needs leadership from a board that understands the value of its employees, respects its customers and can win back the trust of a nation.”
© AAP 2023