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Virgin hits back at Qantas shielding after profit soars

Virgin is calling on the government to reassess allowing Qatar Airways to run extra flights to bring down prices, revealing their letters are being ignored.

Virgin is calling on the government to reassess allowing Qatar Airways to run extra flights to bring down prices, revealing their letters are being ignored. Photo: AAP

The boss of Virgin Australia has questioned the decision to block more domestic competition to protect Qantas’ profits, saying the government wasn’t properly informed.

The Albanese government blocked Qatar Airways from flying more domestic flights after lobbying from the national carrier Qantas.

Virgin boss Jayne Hrdlicka said she had sought a number of meetings with the government but hadn’t heard back.

“You got the entire industry (supporting this) and Qantas is the only party objecting,” she told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“We would encourage reopening this … there wasn’t enough information provided to help balance out.”

Ms Hrdlicka also hit back at suggestions Qantas as the national carrier needed to be shielded by government intervention.

“They’re privately owned (and) listed on the public market, they’re not government-owned,” she said.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce defended the government’s decision to reject an application by Qatar Airways for an additional 21 services per week after the airline posted a record $2.47 billion profit.

Mr Joyce admitted the airline lobbied the government, saying it amounted to protecting Australia’s national interest.

The opposition has also hit out at a lack of transparency underpinning a decision to ban Qatar Airways from flying more domestic routes, saying it is not the job of the government to protect Qantas’ profits.

Liberal frontbencher Simon Birmingham said it was not clear cut why the government denied Qatar the extra routes.

“We’ve had reasons thrown up in terms of behaviour of officials in Qatar, we’ve had reasons about Qantas’ profitability, we’ve had reasons about questions around purchasing of new aircraft,” he told Sky News.

“It’s not the government’s job to automatically make Qantas profitable.

“Of course, we want to see the national carrier be profitable and for it not to need government intervention or bailing out but there’s no transparency around the basis upon which the government formed this decision.”

Opposition finance spokeswoman Jane Hume said it was “quite confronting” that Qantas heavily lobbied the Albanese government to deny Qatar the extra flights, which would have provided an extra one million seats a year.

“Increasing the competition would bring down the cost of airfares for Australians and the Albanese government has denied that,” she told Seven’s Sunrise program.

“They actually went against departmental advice after lobbying from Qantas, now, that in itself is a great concern because it means that the government is actually artificially keeping airfares high.”

She also raised concerns about unused flight credits given to customers during the pandemic expiring at the end of the year and going straight to Qantas’ bottom line.

The company revealed the value of flight credits it holds is $100 million higher than the $370 million reported.

They are set to expire in December.

Jetstar chief executive Stephanie Tully said for her airline about $100 million in credits were yet to be redeemed by customers.

For overseas bookings, no amount could be given, with Qantas to provide the information on notice.

Virgin has around $300 million in unclaimed credits from before the pandemic and $100 million from during.

– AAP

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