Open Letter to Qantas Board Members

To the Qantas Board, Open Letter

     Dear Board Members,
  As a Platinum Frequent Flyer with Qantas and 40 years patronage, I am
disappointed with Alan Joyce’s brazen support of SSM; like most frequent
flyers, I am not interested in your CEO’s opinion on any social issues.
On a plane I am only interested in safety, service and scheduling.

     Qantas have peddled their internal policies with gay dating in their
in-flight magazine for some time. This has now blown out to include their
campaign with 'Same Sex Marriage’ messages on boarding passes and black
open rings for staff.

     It is easy to see the temptation to use decades of careful investment in
a unique and trusted national icon to campaign for social and political
issues but hard to imagine the diligent research and responsible
management processes that demonstrate that these actions improve customer
franchise and investor returns.

     Two obvious issues that come to mind immediately are: does this overt and
emphatic support of the SSM platform place Qantas customers at risk of
terrorist reprisal, as the only airline in the world with such a
position; what does this mean for dissenting staff who for reasons of
personal conscience and democratic privilege do not support the SSM
platform?

     To the extent to which we can find objective measure of the performance
of Mr Joyce and the new culture at Qantas, the data appears worrying.
Since his appointment in late 2008 it would appear that:
Qantas has slipped from #2 to #9 in the global rankings in the World
Airline Awards. (This week I have come off a Qantas flight from the US
and the plane is best described as old and shabby.)
Average EBIT margins have been 1.5%, Air New Zealand for the same period
has achieved 5.9% (3.9X)
Return on Equity a staggeringly low average of 0.5%, Air New Zealand
10.6% (21.2X)
Dividend Payout Ratio 28%, Air New Zealand 100% (3.6X)

     Recent improvement in performance has only been achieved as the result of
massive asset write downs, huge redundancies and a very significant
favourable shift in fuel prices.

     In the circumstances, it is surely incumbent on the Board of Qantas to
demonstrate to the public that the decision to place Qantas at the
forefront of the SSM movement in this country has been carefully
researched and is in the best interests of customers, shareholders and
employees; in addition it needs to be clear that the personal crusade of
the CEO has not impacted on the extraordinarily poor performance of the
national airline during his tenure.

     As to the Ban on a 67 year old 'Pie Man', this reaction is petulant and
hissy, and I expected better from Qantas.

     Bans go both ways, I have banned all my staff from travelling with
Qantas, as you are no longer providing good service or value for money.
But mainly we are offended by your selective presentation of SSM as part
of our flying experience, which we consider is both dangerous and
unnecessary, instead of focussing on the prime task of making a good
airline great.

Dr Stuart Ballantyne, CEO
Sea Transport Corp
Australia, China, Hong Kong, U.S.

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