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Qantas faces fresh domestic and international challenges

Qantas has found it itself under pressure again from its cabin crew and Qatar Airways.

Qantas has found it itself under pressure again from its cabin crew and Qatar Airways. Photo: TND/Getty

Qantas may have been hoping to put a torrid period of bad press behind it, but the company is facing renewed domestic and international challenges.

The Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) has applied to the Fair Work Commission for orders to increase the pay of cabin crew members employed by Qantas through labour hire and subsidiary companies, under the recently introduced same job, same pay laws.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways is again hoping to increase its operations in Australia, a move that Qantas has opposed but would improve competition and prices for airfares.

Teri O’Toole, federal secretary of the FAAA, told The New Daily that Qantas Airlines Limited hasn’t directly employed a cabin crew member since 2007.

“You’ve got two people on a cart doing the exact same job with different pay, conditions and hours,” she said.

“They take advantage of the fact that for a lot of people, being cabin crew is a dream job and something they’ve always wanted to do.”

She said she hopes Qantas sees the business practice is “dead in the water”.

“We’re hoping that after the biggest illegal sacking in Australian history and the ghost flights penalties that at some point Vanessa Hudson is going to say we want to do business differently,” O’Toole said.

“It’s about two people doing [the same job] and getting paid the same.”

Australia’s flagship airline recently paid a $100 million settlement for a legal case in which it was accused by the ACCC of selling tickets on flights that had already been cancelled.

The High Court of Australia also found that Qantas illegally sacked 1700 workers during the pandemic.

A Qantas spokesperson said the airline will “work through the process once the FAAA lodge their application and we receive the details”.

“The Qantas Group has directly hired thousands of cabin crew since 2007,” the spokesperson said.

Qatar push

Away from home, Qatar Airways has continued its push for greater access to routes and airport slots, after its CEO Badr Mohammed Al Meer told reporters it was continuing communication with the Australian government.

“Hopefully in the next few months we will get some positive news from Australia,” he said.

“We are looking forward to expand and grow more in the Australia market.”

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways is hoping to increase business in Australia, according to its CEO. Photo: Getty

Qantas and Qatar Airways were on opposite ends of a dispute when the Australian government rejected Qatar’s application for more flights route between Europe and Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane last year.

Cheaper airfares?

Former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce argued that Qatar’s successful application would have created “market distortion”, but Australia’s consumer watchdog said that it would have created cheaper flights and more competition in the international market.

Gina Cass-Gottlieb, head of the ACCC, said that the expansion would have reduced airfares by about 40 per cent, echoing claims by Virgin Australia’s CEO.

Qatar Airways applied for 21 extra flights per week and estimates by Professor Rico Merkert, a professor in transport at the University of Sydney, claimed that the rejection would cost Australia’s economy about $1 billion each year in lost income from tourism and business.

“Capacity on the Kangaroo Route between Australia and Europe is only back to 70 per cent of where it was before Covid, allowing current operators such as the Emirates-Qantas alliance to charge much more than they could before the pandemic,” he said.

“Years of worth of research and international best practice indicate that an open approach to air rights delivers the best economic outcomes, especially for the country doing the opening.”

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