Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti has condemned his Qantas rival Alan Joyce for asking the airline’s 30,000 staff to campaign against foreign ownership.
Qantas has set up an online petition against an “unfair playing field” as Virgin issues new shares to raise $350 million from its major shareholders Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and Etihad Airways.
With Virgin to hold its annual general meeting in Brisbane on Wednesday, Mr Borghetti is accusing Mr Joyce of hampering competition by involving Qantas staff in a corporate battle.
“I would never ask my staff to do that,” Mr Borghetti told News Corp Australia.
Mr Borghetti, a former Qantas executive, also dismissed a suggestion from Mr Joyce that Virgin had been losing money for the past 18 months by setting uncompetitively low fares to win over Qantas passengers.
“I can’t believe any company executive would believe that a public company would deliberately do things to lose money,” he said.
The Keating government enacted laws limiting Qantas foreign ownership to 49 per cent when it privatised the airline in 1992.
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and Etihad Airways would be raising their stake in Virgin Australia from 63 per cent to 70 per cent as it issues new shares.