Qantas has hit back at claims made by rival airline Regional Express that the flying kangaroo is raking in the bulk of government support for the aviation industry.
Appearing on morning television on Friday, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said Rex was in no position to point the finger at the nation’s largest airline, saying the country carrier has received ample support during the pandemic.
Mr Joyce’s comments follow an outburst from Rex deputy chairman John Sharp, who said most of the 800,000 discounted flight tickets announced in Thursday’s aviation package would be gobbled up by Qantas and the rest of the sector would be left to fight for the scraps.
Mr Sharp also labelled the latest round of federal government support at “QantasKeeper”.
But Qantas’s top boss argued that Rex received seven times the aid Qantas did as a proportion of each company’s respective revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.
“You can’t feel sorry for Rex because Rex has gotten all this money from the government previously,” Mr Joyce said on the Today show.
“They got as a percentage of revenue seven times the aid that Qantas got last year, which is the equivalent of Qantas getting $7bn.”
Mr Joyce also noted Rex was probably one of the only airlines to still make money during the year, as its regional routes were still able to operate and be shielded from the impacts felt in the international travel market.
Qantas in a statement on Thursday said it anticipated it would be able to offer 550,000 of the discounted seats, with elevated travel numbers set to help 7500 employees who were stood down because of the pandemic.
“Rex made money last year, no other airline in the world I think did, but with that government support and government help,” Mr Joyce said.
“So they’ve had a lot of support from the government. They should be thanking the government for what they’ve done, but obviously too much is never enough when it comes to Rex.”
Mr Sharp on Thursday said regional Australia was largely ignored in the package.
“It’s really a Qantas package,” he said.
“I think it is a good concept, but I think it has some major unintended consequences because it ignores the fact that there are some fantastic tourism destinations in regional Australia that won’t be serviced,” he said.
The Qantas group services about 70 per cent of Australia’s domestic airline market.