SYDNEY- Jason Clare, a member of the Labor frontbench, has called upon Qatar Airways (QR) to maximize their routes to Australia, while the federal government’s decision to reject the airline’s request for additional flights is under ongoing scrutiny.
A Senate inquiry has been investigating the rationale behind the denial of extra flights to Qatar Airways and whether there was any influence from the domestic carrier Qantas (QF) in shaping this decision.
Qatar Airways Australian Routes
Mr. Clare stated that the Middle Eastern airline could potentially operate more flights to Australia by fully utilizing their existing slots.
“They have the opportunity to operate additional flights to destinations like Adelaide, Canberra, the Gold Coast, or Cairns. Additionally, they could use larger aircraft for their flights to Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane,” the minister stated in an interview with Sky News on Sunday.
He further emphasized that before requesting additional flights, they should focus on maximizing their current capacity, likening the situation to a child requesting dessert before finishing their dinner.
During a recent Senate inquiry, Fathi Atti, a representative from Qatar Airways, mentioned that the government had not advised the airline to increase the number of flights to secondary airports or to use larger aircraft.
Qantas Executive Inquiry
During last week’s Senate inquiry, Qantas executives, including new CEO Vanessa Hudson and chair Richard Goyder, were questioned regarding their knowledge of the government’s decision to deny Qatar Airways additional flights.
However, former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce did not attend the inquiry due to his overseas travel commitments.
Coalition senators have confirmed their intention to summon Mr. Joyce to appear before the inquiry upon his return to Australia.
Inquiry chair, Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie, mentioned that taking legal action, including the possibility of jail time, was under consideration to compel Mr. Joyce to testify.
“It’s not a step the Senate takes lightly or frequently, but it is a potential penalty,” she explained in an interview with Sky News. “Individuals can be found in contempt of the Senate, and this may result in fines or imprisonment.”
In theory, the Senate has the authority to impose a jail term of up to six months for contempt.
Mr. Joyce informed the Senate committee that he couldn’t participate in the inquiry in person or via video link due to personal commitments while abroad.
Senator McKenzie highlighted that the inquiry had brought to light significant misconduct by Qantas, prompting the airline to reverse its stance on certain policies, such as its Frequent Flyers program.
“We have received compelling evidence, which has already yielded significant outcomes,” she stated. “Qantas has issued multiple and sincere apologies, and this is not merely due to the appointment of a new CEO.”
Govt Caught Red-Handed
Nonetheless, the Nationals senator acknowledged that the inquiry lacked the authority to compel Transport Minister Catherine King to testify, given her status as a member of the House of Representatives.
Senator McKenzie emphasized that Ms. King should appear and explain why she believed blocking additional flights for Qatar Airways was the correct decision.
“The government has been caught unprepared in not fully recognizing the frustration of Australians, not only with Qantas but also with the aviation industry, which is not effectively serving their needs,” she remarked.
Ms. King had previously stated that her decision was based on national security concerns. The Senate committee is scheduled to release its report by October 9th.
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