The dissident ‘contras’ that want Qantas’s cash, which is the one word summary for a ‘change in strategic direction’ is reported in this morning’s Australian to have gained the support of Gerry Harvey, the public head of a retail chain in desperate need of a strategic wake-up shake-up in its own struggles with the 21st century and on-line consumers.
How much better this will make the push by former Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon,his former CFO Peter Gregg, vulture capitalist Mark Carnegie, pub and ad man John Singleton and perhaps others with similar thoughts sitting on the odd one or two percent of Qantas shares remains to be seen.
But should they suddenly and spontaneously add themselves all together one afternoon in a completely previously never discussed or even recognised yet common cause, a shareholding able to demand a board seat or three, might suddenly materialise. Right out of thin air, like Qantas CEO Alan Joyce waking up on the last Saturday of October 2011 and deciding to attack its customers with a grounding in order to panic Fair Work Australia and a panic prone government into supporting the cancellation of lawful industrial action, which cost the airline $194 million.
It’s called critical mass in nuclear weapons technology, and it can be applicable to companies struggling with truly deficient managers and boards.
There is a string of dumb things Qantas has done to itself under chairman Leigh Clifford and CEO Alan Joyce, and Sunday’s awesome attack on the quality of its business class product in its domestic A330 fleet is but a process which builds upon replacing two class Boeing 737s with one class Qantaslink Q400s in ‘strategic’ timetable improvements between Melbourne and Hobart and Canberra and Adelaide.
If the contras get the loot, er, strategic changes they seek, they will also trigger, should Emirates see fit, a clause in its proposed partnership with Qantas that enables it to cancel on the event of key changes in the Qantas ownership or its executive talents.
The proposed partnership is very good for Emirates, in that it gifts to it the current token Qantas branded participation in the UK and Europe market out of Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth and anywhere else where a flight via Sydney or Melbourne is a ridiculous proposition.
However should the partnership not go ahead, then make no mistake, Emirates will continue to go ahead in Australia, doing what it does now, which is to take customers off Qantas, as well as find new ones in Africa, Asia, and eastern and western Europe, in cities and cultures that Qantas never really took seriously anyhow.
Ben Sandilands has reported and analysed the mechanical mobility of humanity since late 1960 - the end of the age of great scheduled ocean liners and coastal steamers and the start of the jet age. He’s worked in newspapers, radio and TV in a wide range of roles as a journalist at home and abroad for 56 years, the last 18 freelance.