Australian competition authorities are investigating claims from Virgin Australia that rival carrier Qantas has been briefing the media that it is not financially viable and should be excluded from any state bailout of the struggling sector.
The Financial Times reported that Virgin has sent a letter to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims setting out their complaint and calling for immediate action against Qantas.
The letter states: “We have received reports of Qantas briefing journalists on the false pretence that Virgin Australia cash reserves are running out within days and that Virgin Australia has appointed administrators.”
Scurrah added that he had seen social media reports that Qantas employees had been encouraged to write to MPs to call for Virgin’s exclusion.
Sims confirmed that his office would investigate the claims, adding that the country “really needed” firms to work together to overcome the coronavirus crisis:
“I think it is essential that we have two full service airlines after this crisis”, he told local media.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce has been deeply critical of suggestions that Virgin could be on the receiving end of government handouts.
It should instead, he said, be a case of “survival of the fittest”.
Both Qantas and Virgin have grounded their international fleets and dramatically cut back domestic routes during the coronavirus outbreak, with travel restrictions and plummeting passenger numbers hitting their operations hard.
The Australian government has already pledged AU$715 million (£360m) in support of the sector, which has been ravaged by the illness.