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New Qantas boss says sorry - the word her predecessor seemed to have forgotten

Business

Qantas customers have been issued an apology, with new chief executive Vanessa Hudson pledging to restore the airline to a carrier Australians “can be proud of”.

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In a video message released on Friday, Ms Hudson acknowledged Qantas had work to do to win back the trust of customers.

“I know that we have let you down in many ways,” she said.

“We haven’t delivered the way we should have and we’ve often been hard to deal with.

“We understand why you’re frustrated, and why some of you have lost trust in us.”

The airline was determined to fix the issues, improve the experience of flyers, and support its workers better, she said.

“We want to get back to the national carrier that Australians can be proud of,” the airline chief said.

“We understand we need to earn your trust back, not with what we say, but what we do and how we behave.”

The apology came amid evidence to a Senate inquiry into Australia’s bilateral air services agreements of concerns about Qantas throwing its weight around.

Canberra Airport chief executive Stephen Byron told a hearing that Australian airports had copped “unlawful behaviour” from Qantas, with the airline acting as if it were “above the law”.

“Things need to change with Qantas … our opinion is that Qantas will not change unless they’re brought to heel by a regulator, or by the highest court in the land,” he said in Perth.

Mr Byron said reforming the slot system would be the “most critical” policy to achieving competition with the need for enforcing a “use it or lose it” rule.

He said for domestic flights, if an airline had high cancellation rates the slots should automatically be taken away.

In a submission to the inquiry, WAFarmers chief executive Trevor Whittington said impacts on the agricultural industry – due to Qatar Airways’ request for a doubling of flights being rejected – had been overlooked.

Qatar spent $135 million on chilled Australian beef and boxed sheep, making it the third-largest market in the Middle East and North Africa for the exports.

Throttling airline capacity prevents the sector from expanding and the failure to return flights to pre-COVID levels has already hurt exports.

“Any move to restrict flights to Doha should be carefully scrutinised,” Mr Whittington said.

Broome International Airport chief Craig Shaw called on governments to better use the country’s secondary airports to improve prosperity in the regions.

The committee’s chair, Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie, has criticised Transport Minister Catherine King’s decision to block the bid to double the 28 weekly services Qatar Airways offers in Australia after it was revealed Qantas had lobbied against the flights.

Ms King has claimed the decision was made in the national interest but hasn’t provided the reasons behind it.

The opposition has accused the government of running a protection racket for Qantas.

The airline’s reputation has taken a hit after a string of issues, including a High Court defeat which found the carrier illegally sacked almost 1700 workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee will hold another two public hearings in Brisbane and Canberra, with the inquiry to report back by October 9.

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