All three current MPs appearing on Monday’s episode of Q+A admitted to maintaining exclusive Qantas chairman lounge memberships despite criticising the airline for alleged misconduct.
Only moments after stating he was “trying not to” fly with Qantas as a “statement” against the airline’s practices, National MP Kevin Hogan revealed he still held a the exclusive membership with the airline.
Individuals cannot purchase or use frequent flyer points to gain access to the secretive chairman lounge, but must be hand-picked by Qantas officials.
This comes less than two weeks after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced action in the Federal Court of Australia against Qantas for allegedly engaging in false, misleading or deceptive conduct.
It is alleged the airline advertised more than 8000 flights scheduled to depart between May and July 2022 that it had already cancelled.
Q+A host Patricia Karvelas asked which of the politicians on the panel, including Agriculture Minister Murray Watt and independent Member Kylea Tink, still held a membership.
All three politicians promptly raised their hands. As did former NSW Premier and High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell.
“A free drink and some stale peanuts will not stop me from calling them out when the behaviour is wrong,” Ms Tink said.
“There’s good stuff there, it’s better than stale peanuts,” Karvelas shot back.
The question came after writer and youth advocate Yasmin Poole revealed she had paid $4000 for a return ticket to Australia from the UK to appear on the panel.
“The nuts are good I hear in the Chairman’s Lounge,” Karvelas added.
The revelation came moments after Mr Watt called for increased transparency from the airline.
The Labor Agriculture Minister also criticised Qantas for outsourcing many of its functions, cutting wages and bringing in labour hire.
“That’s had a direct impact on customers,” he said.
“It’s one of the reasons why so many flights get cancelled and baggage gets lost.”
Last month, it was reported that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s 23-year-old son Nathan had received a pass into Qantas’ invite-only Chairman’s Lounge, sparking debate about the government’s closeness to Qantas.’
It was the start of another round of issues to face Qantas, including the airline’s announcement of a $2.47bn profit result while it slashed costs and struggled to offer adequate customer service.
A class-action lawsuit over pandemic-era refunds, an ACCC investigation over selling cancelled fares, the refusal to pay $2.5bn in government subsidies, and a poor-showing by then-chief executive Alan Joyce at a Senate hearing added to the airline’s woes
The Qantas chief executive then announced his immediate resignation on September 5 after a fortnight of anger at the national carrier, bringing forward his retirement by two months.
After serving at the airline’s helm for 22 years, Vanessa Hudson took over as the new managing director and group chief executive on Wednesday.
ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said in a statement that Qantas’ conduct had likely affected “tens of thousands of people”.
“We allege that Qantas’ conduct in continuing to sell tickets to cancelled flights, and not updating ticketholders about cancelled flights, left customers with less time to make alternative arrangements and may have led to them paying higher prices to fly at a particular time not knowing that flight had already been cancelled,” she said.
“Cancelled flights can result in significant financial, logistical and emotional impacts for consumers.”