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Qantas is boycotting distribution of national masthead The Australian Financial Review, hiding newspapers from its lounges amid an escalating dispute over the coverage of the airline by one of its most prolific columnists.
Customers have also claimed articles are no longer discoverable on the airline’s in-house Wi-Fi, a situation which appears to have coincided with persistent critical coverage of the airline by Rear Window columnist Joe Aston.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce (right) has previously removed newspapers from lounges because of scrutiny.Credit: Rhett Wyman
Aston has taken aim at outgoing chief executive Alan Joyce’s leadership, the airline’s fleet and customer service repeatedly in the nine months since the outgoing chief executive claimed he was not a public figure.
The coverage, which appears on the back page of the Financial Review has accused Qantas of fare gouging and the rising cost of capital expenditure, which has since been scrutinised widely by analysts. The Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are owned by Nine.
The Financial Review signed its latest deal with Qantas to make its digital content available to all the airline’s customers in its lounges and on flights last July. The commercial deal gives customers full access to the news, analysis and commentary and is expected to expire later this year. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Financial Review appeared in Qantas lounges for years.
It coincided with a similar deal with News Corp’s national masthead The Australian and a switch from Sky News to ABC News in Qantas lounges and across the domestic jet fleet.
This isn’t the first time Qantas or Joyce have retaliated to what it perceives to be negative coverage. Joyce pulled millions of dollars in advertising revenue from the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in 2014 and dumped the newspapers from distribution in the aircraft and lounges, over concerns the newspapers were not showing impartiality and were favouring competition Virgin.
In 2014, after Qantas posted a $2.8 billion loss, investigative reporter Adele Ferguson called for Joyce’s resignation. Qantas stopped providing the Herald and The Age on flights soon after in what the airline deemed a review.
“We are rationalising the number of newspapers we provide at the gate as part of our transformation, but we will still be providing a full range in our lounges.” A spokesperson said at the time.
Nine’s managing director of publishing James Chessell said Qantas’s decision to censor the newspaper was disappointing.
“It’s disappointing Qantas management has decided to deprive its customers of the country’s best business and finance journalism because it can’t countenance robust criticism.
“We’ve been here before with Qantas, and as always, our editorial independence won’t be affected by commercial pressure. The vast majority of people I speak to think Joe’s Qantas coverage is tough but fair.”
Qantas declined to comment.
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