Qantas Christmas airfares will remain high, says CEO Alan Joyce
There will be little Christmas cheer for Qantas passengers this year with fares set to remain sky-high until 2023.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce offered the Scrooge-like valuation during a wide-ranging interview where he blamed high fuel costs, bottlenecks to get planes operational and high demand for the skyrocketing flight costs.
Mr Joyce said a major factor driving up prices was getting planes ready to fly again as they had to ‘wake up’ from being put in storage during the Covid period.
“It was difficult to get these planes back in the air,” Mr Joyce told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Every maintenance facility in the world is in lockdown, so there’s a big backlog.”
There is no price relief in sight for Qantas passengers over Christmas, so Santa Claus (pictured left) might be well advised to stick to his other means of air travel
Although Mr Joyce believed Qantas should have enough of its fleet in the air next year to meet growing demand, the cost of fuel was a factor that could not be predicted.
“We paid $5 billion for fuel this year, which is the biggest fuel bill we’ve ever had,” he said.
“Nobody knows what will happen with things like the war in Ukraine, so it is unclear if fuel prices will return to 2019 levels.
“If they do, and you have the ability to come back in line with demand, airfares will come down significantly.”
Qantas boss Alan Joyce blamed high airfares on planes being ready to fly again, soaring fuel costs and growing demand
According to consumer watchdog the ACCC, airfares in October were 27% higher than during the same period in 2019, pre-Covid.
In a sometimes combative interview with Sydney Morning Herald journalist Peter FitzSimons, Mr Joyce defended his airline against frequent criticism that it was overpaying him and other executives while contracting and outsourcing its workforce.
Mr Joyce claimed the criticism had been made by ‘militant unions’ and that the airline had 22,000 people working for them and on average they were paid more than $100,000 a year.
He defended the controversial decision to outsource baggage handling, which led to a bitter legal battle with the union representing the laid-off workers.
Mr Joyce said employing baggage handlers “in-house” was very inefficient and Qantas was following the lead of almost every other airline in outsourcing the work.
Three Swissport baggage handlers, who were caught carelessly throwing Qantas passengers’ luggage onto a conveyor belt, have been sacked
He claimed such a move was necessary to get the business back on its feet after the entire Covid industry shut down.
Asked about the recent viral video of three Qantas baggage handlers recklessly and brutally throwing luggage onto a conveyor belt, Mr Joyce made no attempt to defend the men, who have since been sacked.
“Some people do inappropriate things and it’s how you handle them that’s important,” Mr Joyce said.
“I think our ground manager (Swissport) handled that well.”
Regarding his own compensation and that of other executives, Mr Joyce said that during the Covid period, when the airline was ’11 weeks from bankruptcy’, a third of management was made redundant while he and others “did not take a salary for several months”. .
Mr Joyce says Qantas is back to its pre-Covid service levels after a mid-year horror spell which saw the airline win a ‘Shonky Award’ from consumer advocacy group Choice
During the company’s September reporting season, it was revealed that Mr Joyce pocketed an additional $287,000 for the past financial year, taking his salary to $5,575,000.
Mr Joyce was also not happy that the airline received a ‘Shonky’ award from consumer advocacy group Choice for its chronic problems throughout 2022.
During this period, Qantas and its low-cost airline Jetstar frequently canceled flights, lost luggage and were the subject of numerous horror stories from customers complaining of spending hours on the phone waiting to call various help lines.
Mr Joyce claimed that all airlines around the world were experiencing similar problems during this period, but the problems had since been resolved and Qantas had returned to pre-Covid performance levels.
“In October, we were by far the most reliable airline. And that trend continues,” he said.
Mr Joyce admitted, however, that the airline had been too ambitious to regain capacity too quickly.
“We did this because we know people want to travel. People have been locked up for a long time,” he said.
“But given the supply chain and sick leave issues, which we didn’t know we were going to hit ourselves so hard, that, in hindsight, was the wrong decision.”