Qantas has quietly purged several Australian religious leaders from its Chairman’s Lounge as part of a drive to create efficiencies and reward the biggest spenders on the airline. It is believed the airline has been working on reducing the Chairman’s Lounge list for up to four years. Religious leaders across faiths have received letters removing them from the exclusive list over the past several years. While Cardinal George Pell has been stripped of membership, it is understood the purge is wider than just the convicted Catholic, who has been jailed for child-sex offences.
Qantas does not comment on who is on the list and senior church leaders have either declined to respond, or simply declared they are not on the list. The Australian media has contacted several Catholic and Anglican archbishops to determine the extent of the purge. Sources said the Qantas letter referenced the fact the purge related to religious leaders across faiths and was not related purely to the Catholic Church. The purge began several years ago but has not been reported. Anglican primate of Australia Philip Freier is overseas and the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, is not a member of the Chairman’s Lounge.
Qantas’s purge is believed to have started before the same-sex marriage debate and was part of a long-running strategy. The Chairman’s Lounge is considered the peak club for high flyers but would-be members can’t buy their way in and are invited by the Qantas hierarchy based on their suitability. Benefits include free alcohol and food, showers and communications facilities. Club memberships extend to members of parliament, chief executives and celebrities but Qantas increasingly has focused its attention on CEOs and those who have significant control over flight expenditure.
The decision to purge religious leaders has raised the eyebrows of some, with the major churches spending millions each year on travel. The Catholic Church has health and education networks worth billions of dollars and its senior clergy and staff are constantly travelling to Rome for meetings and development programs. The Anglican Church’s welfare programs are in place across Australia and it also has a significant schools network. Controversy about the membership intensified after journalist Phillip Adams, who coined the phrase “Spirit of Australia” for Qantas, had his lounge membership withdrawn.’
The Weekend Australian columnist, Radio National broadcaster and former advertising executive was dismayed when told by Qantas, which came after Senator Fraser Anning was expelled from the Chairman’s Lounge based on the censure motion passed against him over his Christchurch shooting massacre commentary. “Because of age and decrepitude, I haven’t been using it much at all, but that’s not the point,” Adams said. “I was hardly cluttering up the facility and I was really quite surprised because I do have a large media footprint.”
Source: Compiled by Australian Prayer Network