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Virgin Australia has written to Australia’s competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), to complain about allegedly anti-competitive comments made by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. Virgin MD Paul Scurrah wrote asking the ACCC “to investigate public commentary and an industry-wide campaign by Qantas that is designed to ensure a lessening of competition in the aviation sector.”

Last Friday Mr Joyce appeared on Sky News Australia where he said that the government should not nationalise Virgin and “not look after the badly managed companies which have been badly managed for 10 years.” Mr Joyce also allegedly asked workers to lobby MP’s about the issue. At the announcement of the grounding of most of their fleet, Mr Joyce said it was “survival of the fittest” and that “lots of airlines are going to go under. Qantas will not be one of them. One of the things we are working on is making sure we are last man standing.”

ACCC chairperson Rod Sims told ABC News Australia, “The complaint that we’ve had from Paul Scurrah is that Qantas is engaging in anti-competitive conduct, designed to damage Virgin as a competitor. We have to look at whether the behaviour has the purpose or the effect of substantially limiting competition.” Mr Sims also said that Australia needs two big airlines and will speak to Qantas about the comments. Mr Sims told The Guardian Australia, “Separate from the investigation – it’s obviously linked a bit – comments about the survival of the fittest aren’t helpful at a time when we do have a crisis and we need a more cooperative spirit to get through this. You would have seen today we’ve authorised the supermarkets to cooperate, last week we authorised the banks to cooperate, we’ve got a real crisis here and we need to be working together, not making statements like ‘survival of the fittest.’”

A Qantas spokesperson responded by saying, “In the past fortnight, Virgin has made legal threats to us directly and has now gone to the ACCC to claim we’re the source of various rumours circulating widely in the market. We’re not. What is true is that we’ve been very candid in our assessment of what’s happening to airlines around the world and the fact we’re determined to be different. Saying you want to survive is not anti-competitive.”