The Australian ladies who are suing Qatar Airways after a “horrific” experience at Doha airport have criticized a Senate report investigating the airline’s thwarted drive for extra flights. They allege the probe focused too heavily on Alan Joyce and Qantas, without bringing the Qatari carrier to account. The women are suing Qatar Airways because of the “horrific” experience they had at Doha airport.
The Senate select committee on bilateral air service agreements issued its findings on Monday, urging the Australian government to immediately reconsider its decision to deny Qatar Airways’ request to almost double the number of flights it operates into Australia’s major airports. The committee was established to investigate the denial of Qatar Airways’ request to almost double the number of flights it operates into Australia’s major airports.
During the course of a month’s worth of hearings, the inquiry investigated allegations of anti-competitive behavior and high airfares, in addition to questions regarding the influence that Qantas had on the decision made by the transport minister Catherine King. These allegations included questioning the new boss of the airline, Vanessa Hudson, and threatening her predecessor, Joyce, with jail time if he failed to appear at a later date after his return from overseas.
The investigation also explored the importance of an incident that occurred in October 2020 at Doha airport. During this incident, female passengers were ordered off planes at gunpoint and subjected to non-consensual invasive physical searches as officials looked for the mother of a baby who had been abandoned in a restroom.
Five women from Australia have decided to take Qatar Airways, its subsidiary that owns Doha airport, and the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority to court over a potential discrimination claim. The law firm that is representing the women, Marque Lawyers, has expressed dissatisfaction with the Qatari parties’ lack of cooperation and has criticized the Qataris for not immediately apologizing to the women involved in the case.
King made public her decision to deny the airline’s request for additional routes in July, when she responded to a letter that the women had written to her appealing with her not to allow the carrier additional rights. In the letter, the ladies urged King not to award the airline additional privileges. During the months of debate that followed, she insisted that their treatment was only one of several considerations that went into the decision, which was based on “national interest” factors.
Representatives from Qatar Airways stated during the inquiry that such treatment would not be repeated. In the report that the committee released on Monday, the recommendations focused on reevaluating the decision and better considering the needs of consumers. Additionally, it was noted that Qatar Airways had assisted in the repatriation of Australians during the pandemic and from Afghanistan in 2021.
As a result of the politicized nature of the probe, which was being conducted by senator Bridget McKenzie of the Nationals, King decided not to participate. Members of Labor and the Greens released reports that disagreed with the findings of the Senate investigation, which the government called a “political stunt.”
Now, the ladies who are driving the legal action have voiced their criticism of the report, saying that it fails to hold Qatar Airways accountable for how it handled “the horrific incident.” The ladies have given their support to the dissenting report that Labor put up, which stated that “Qatar Airways is not a good corporate citizen and is not entitled to improved landing rights.”
Anna*, one of the ladies who are behind the legal action, stated in an interview with Guardian Australia that their case did not receive appropriate attention until it was tied to the decision of the government to deny Qatar Airways’ request.
“It has just turned into a political storm about Alan Joyce and Qantas, and it has been very upsetting for me and the whole group,” she added. “It was very upsetting for me.”
“Neither the airport nor the government has ever apologized to us, nor have they made any attempt to contact us about the incident. There was only ever a single public apology extended, but that was it.”
At a hearing in August held in the court, attorneys for the airline contended that the searches were not the conduct of airline or airport workers but rather those of the police. While this was going on, the Qatari regulator was trying to get a stay granted based on their sovereign immunity.
According to Anna, the airline was “aggressively defending” itself in the legal processes.
“When Minister King refused them extra rights, we understood that she was standing by us and protecting the national interest. This made us very happy, and we were very happy when she made her decision.” The residents of this country are the focus of the national interest because “what other interest could they possibly have?”
“When we read the [Senate] report, we were taken aback by our level of dissatisfaction. It was really difficult to read, and there was no mention of what they had done to us in an appropriate manner.
They were left with a sense of being “without support” as a result of the fact that the rejection of the airline’s drive for more flights was framed as support for Qantas and resulted in higher airfares.
“I am someone who has to travel overseas to see my family, and I understand that you would like cheaper flights,” Anna remarked. “I am someone who must travel overseas to see my family.” “However, Qatar is obligated to provide a response to us, and our government is the only entity that has the power to compel Qatar to do so.”
Damian Sturzaker of Marque, who is representing the women, stated that the political aspect of the Senate inquiry and the focus on Qantas “certainly minimized” the women’s trauma and horrific experience, and that it paid just “lip service” to the women’s predicament.
“There was criticism about Alan Joyce not appearing, and yet the CEO of Qatar Airways didn’t appear,” he said. “There was criticism about Alan Joyce not appearing.”
“A good corporate citizen acknowledges when a mistake has been made and makes certain that the people whose lives have been negatively impacted by that mistake receive compensation and an apology.” “Neither of these things has been accomplished by Qatar,” Sturzaker stated.
McKenzie accepted the women’s criticism, but she defended the committee’s findings and probe by noting that the committee had “expressed its deep concern at the appalling and unacceptable incident.”
According to what she stated, representatives from the government “informed the committee that the Qatari Government had prosecuted those responsible, had apologized for horrific incident, and had ‘repeatedly assured’ such an horrific incident would not happen again.”