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Qantas Extends Chairman Membership to Prominent Shareholders

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Qantas Extends Chairman Membership to Prominent Shareholders

Qantas Extends Chairman Membership to Prominent Shareholders. In a surprising development, Qantas has welcomed senior investors from one of its significant shareholders into the prestigious Chairman’s Lounge, typically reserved for prominent figures and executives of publicly traded companies.

Pendal Group Notable Members

Crispin Murray, Head of Equities at Pendal Group, and Sondal Bensan, the lead Qantas analyst at the same firm, have been granted exclusive access to this invitation-only lounge. Pendal Group, now under the ownership of Perpetual, has maintained a substantial stake in Qantas since 2013, representing approximately 4% of its total Australian holdings.

Read Also: Qatar Airways Partners With Starlink For Inflight High-speed Connectivity

Public Figures and Regulatory Concerns

This move has raised eyebrows and led to concerns regarding the airline’s influence over various sectors that oversee its operations. The trigger for these concerns was a report by The Australian Financial Review’s Rear Window column, revealing that even Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s 23-year-old son Nathan was bestowed with a membership to the Chairman’s Lounge.

Government regulators, High Court judges, and politicians have also faced scrutiny for their affiliations with this elite establishment. Prominent figures, including Gina Cass-Gottlieb, head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and Joseph Longo, chairman of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, have acknowledged their memberships.

Corporate Ethics and Membership Disclosure

According to a Pendal spokesperson, the memberships of Bensan and Murray have been disclosed to Pendal and Perpetual, and they are in compliance with the companies’ codes of conduct. Both organizations have established policies to manage potential conflicts and ensure the preservation of fiduciary responsibilities to their clients.

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Industry-Wide Access

Interestingly, it appears that the inclusion of senior Pendal investors is not an isolated case. Many other fund managers and major Qantas shareholders also enjoy the benefits of the Chairman’s Lounge. These benefits often include complimentary flight upgrades, dedicated customer service lines, and priority boarding. Moreover, fund managers often have access to Virgin Australia’s equivalent, the invitation-only Beyond lounge, previously known as The Club.

Secrecy and Invitations

Qantas maintains a strict policy of not disclosing who holds access to the Chairman’s Lounge for privacy reasons, as well as not revealing who utilizes its associated benefits. Invitations to the lounge are extended by the CEO, typically for a two-year term, subject to renewal at the airline’s discretion. No membership fees are charged to its members.

Recent Senate Submission and Notable Guests

In a recent submission to the Senate, following an inquiry into bilateral air rights agreements, Qantas reiterated its stance of not revealing individual members. However, it confirmed that senior leaders of key Commonwealth departments and agencies, as well as senior military officials and chief commissioners, along with chief executives of vital agencies, have been offered access to its six lounges.

Pendal Influence and Relationships

Pendal holds a 5% stake in Qantas and stands as the second-largest shareholder of Nine Entertainment, the owner of The Australian Financial Review. Additionally, several executives from Nine also hold memberships in the Chairman’s Lounge and Virgin’s Beyond lounge.

The relationship between Pendal and Qantas gained attention when it was revealed that Bensan holds a substantial number of Qantas shares in his name, making him one of the airline’s top shareholders.

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Read Also: Qantas Drops $614 Million Alliance Takeover Amid Regulatory Hurdles and Proxy Adviser Concerns

Stock Market Challenges

Notably, Qantas has faced a significant decline in its share price, witnessing a nearly 30% drop over the past six months, with shares trading at $4.73. Despite this, the Chairman’s Lounge continues to be a place of interest and intrigue for investors and figures from diverse sectors.

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Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways Plans to Offer Complimentary Starlink Internet Details Yet to Be Disclosed

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Qatar Airways Plans to Offer Complimentary Starlink Internet Details Yet to Be Disclosed

Qatar Airways Plans to Offer Complimentary Starlink Internet Details Yet to Be Disclosed. In a recent development, Qatar Airways, a long-standing user of Inmarsat-now-Viasat Global Xpress (GX) Ka-band satellite-based inflight connectivity service, has indicated its intention to offer SpaceX’s Starlink Aviation onboard Internet to its passengers on a complimentary basis. This offering will be accessible to passengers with a simple “one-click” process.

Read Also: Air Travel in Australia Senate Inquiry, Qantas, and the Shifting Aviation Landscape

Rollout on Specific Aircraft and Routes

According to an official press release from Qatar Airways, the low-latency In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) service will be introduced on “specific aircraft and routes.” The airline has also mentioned that they are currently in the pre-launch phase of the rollout strategy in collaboration with Starlink. SpaceX Vice President of Starlink Commercial Sales, Jonathan Hofeller, has expressed that Starlink is “set to support the entire Qatar Airways fleet.”

This news emerged following the APEX/IFSA Global EXPO event in Long Beach, where Qatar Airways Group’s Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. During this event, Starlink executives met with airline representatives in a nearby hotel.

Changing Landscape in In-Flight Connectivity

The Qatar Airways-Starlink collaboration signifies a shift in the in-flight connectivity landscape. Traditional GEO satellites are being challenged by Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations like SpaceX’s Starlink. For example, Flexjet has announced plans to replace the Viasat hardware on some of its aircraft with Starlink.

Viasat acquisition of Inmarsat, coupled with these changes, has led to some Inmarsat value-added resellers reevaluating their positions. SITA, a service provider to Qatar Airways, has already disclosed its intention to exit the cabin connectivity market by January 2025.

See also  Qatar Airways Prepares for Starlink Broadband Internet Installation

Read Also: Qantas Loyalty Chief Olivia Wirth Resigns Amidst Ongoing Leadership Transition and Controversies

Seeking Clarity from Qatar Airways

Runway Girl Network reached out to Qatar Airways to seek clarification on several points. They inquired about:

  • Qatar Airways plan regarding the replacement of Inmarsat (now Viasat) GX inflight connectivity hardware with Starlink.
  • Whether Starlink will be deployed across Qatar Airways’ entire fleet.
  • Commencement dates for supplemental type certifications and Starlink installations.
  • Which aircraft type will be the first to receive the new hardware.
  • The impact of SITA’s decision to cease being a GX value-added reseller on Qatar Airways’ decision to select Starlink.
  • Qatar Airways’ plans for continuing to roll out Inmarsat GX on its 787-9s.

Qatar Airways Response

In response to these queries, a Qatar Airways spokesperson stated via email that they would keep Runway Girl Network updated on any future operational developments. In a follow-up exchange, when further clarity on the deal was sought, the spokesperson requested the removal of a specific phrase from their press release.

Implications and Future Plans

In the absence of comprehensive details, it seems logical for Qatar Airways to consider introducing Starlink initially on its 787-8s. This fleet has seen recent in-seat In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) upgrades but still lacks true broadband connectivity.

Once Starlink is operational on Qatar Airways aircraft, passengers can anticipate complimentary access to ultra-fast Wi-Fi speeds of up up to 350 Mbps, which can be used for various Internet-based services including video streaming, gaming, web browsing, and more. In contrast, the airline presently charges $10 for inflight access to its ‘Super Wi-Fi.

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Read Also: Qatar Airways Elevates In-Flight Connectivity with Starlink Partnership

Conclusion

Qatar Airways, in its press release, also proudly asserts its position as “the largest airline to collaborate with Starlink.” Other notable Starlink customers include Part 135 operator JSX, Hawaiian Airlines (launch delayed until early next year), airBaltic, and ZIPAIR.

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