While Qatar Airways hopes to quadruple its service to Australia, rival Qantas is fighting the plan. Qantas is concerned about protecting its home market and its partnership with Emirates.
Increasing its service to Australia to double is an ambition of Qatar Airways, but not if Qantas or Emirates can help it.
Qantas and Qatar Airways are part of the oneworld alliance; however, Qantas has a considerably stronger partnership with Emirates. Qantas has a considerable edge as the long-standing flag carrier in Australia, but thanks to their code-share agreement, Emirates has become the preferred Gulf airline in Australia. Qatar Airways teamed with Virgin Australia due to its poor relationship with intra-alliance member Qantas.
Qatar Airways hopes to increase double its services to Australia as demand for travel to and from the country remains strong ahead of the next FIFA World Cup.
Appearing on Sky News, Akbar Al Baker, Group CEO of Qatar Airways, claimed his company aims to challenge Qantas as “the alternative” in Australia.
“The largest operator in Australia has reduced its flight to 50 percent of the pre-Covid level, more than doubling the price of the fares to the Australian travellers for the benefit of the shareholders. Qantas gained access to state funding in the billions of dollars during the pandemic period of 2021.
Furthermore, receiving billions of dollars in public funding during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021.
“At the same time, even their large international partner had cut flights to only 50 percent of pre-Covid levels. While we are offering an alternative to the Australian travellers who we always like to serve.”
However, there is an issue at Qatar Airways. Due to the absence of an Open Skies Treaty between Australia and Qatar, the airline is instead able to operate under a bilateral agreement with Australia. The current terms of the agreement require all Qatar Airways flights bound for Melbourne to make a stop in Canberra to guarantee service to Australia’s capital city (and likely a move to insulate Qantas at its Melbourne hub). Nonetheless, Qatar Airways has disregarded that rule by operating nonstop flights from Doha to Melbourne.
Therefore, Qantas is fighting the government, which is allowing Qatar Airways to increase its service, and it has a decent chance of succeeding. Qatar’s refusal to uphold its end of the pact has made it difficult for Australian authorities to approve service expansion. Unfortunately, the introduction of Qatar Airways, with its high-quality onboard product, would significantly improve competition on key routes and benefit consumers overall.
Earlier this year, Qatar Airways and Virgin Australia formed a partnership. How much additional service from Qatar Airways to Australia can we expect if Virgin Australia opens the door?
However, Qantas and, by extension, Emirates, which now benefits from feeder flights from Qantas, are highly opposed to Qatar Airways’ plans to increase service to Australia significantly. Qatar Airways’ failure to adhere to its bilateral agreement has yet to help its cause. Still, there’s no doubt that the company’s expanded presence in the market would benefit travellers.