bring on sia from sin

a month or so ago, the federal government quietly announced that it would not be approving singapore airlines application for a licence to operate flights from sydney to the united states. given that australian government is in control of our airspace and responsible for our airports (even though they’re mostly now privately owned by companies like macquarie bank), singapore airlines has to get their permission to start flying another route. sensitive to qantas potentially moving a large part of their aircraft maintenance off-shore (as air new zealand and many other top-tier carriers have done) and sacking a lot of australian workers, and knowing that most australian’s aren’t big fans of singapore after the execution of van nugen, the federal government had a politically easy decision to make, and knocked singapore back.

this is a big betrayal for anyone in austalia who travels to the united states.

singapore airlines (or sia for short) could well be the best airline in the world. a long haul flight in economy is never an outrageously pleasant experience; it is squashy, you get all dried out from the air conditioning, and sitting anywhere for 8 hours or more isn’t much fun. but singapore airlines deliver a level of service for economy passengers that you generally only get in from other airlines in business class.

well, now qantas has announced that they’re going to send their heavy maintenance work to asia for at least one 747-400 check, negating one of the major reasons the federal government decided to continue protecting them from competition with sia even though we’ve got a free trade agreement with singapore. this sort of work is very big – as are 747’s – and using the cover of a shuffling of the deck chairs as the reason for the outsourcing (“just this once, we promise”) qantas has effectively used the (non-organised) travelling public as a pawn whose interests should be weighed against those of the aircraft maintenance union (highly organised).
it’s hard to decide who to loathe more here. should it be the government for ripping off the largest number of people without a voice (travelling public, and by association the tourism sector who badly need american tourists who shudder at the thought of a 12 hour flight even though that’s what it takes to get to europe from california)? should it be qantas for milking the sydney-usa route so mercilessly with high prices and poor service? should it be the unions, who’ve traditionally had a strong bargaining position with airlines (baggage handlers are about as valuable economically as hotel bell-hops, yet they recieve exceptionally good pay and conditions because they can bring an airline to its knees in a snap strike)?

either way, the travelling public is going to continue to get screwed any time the government creates an artificial barrier to competition, and hopefully qantas’ actions in going back on their word means the government comes under pressure from the unions and makes the government less likely to shelter qantas next time sia from sin comes knocking…

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