Since Qantas has cut international flights by half, Qatar Airways has taken the unusual step of openly criticising the airline, claiming that the move has “more than doubled the price” of tickets.
According to Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, Qantas shareholders benefited from this policy at the expense of Australian passengers.
Qatar Airways believes that the federal government is treating it unfairly by only allowing it to operate 28 weekly flights into Australian airports. In comparison, other major airlines have been awarded as many as 150 weekly flights.
At a time when Qantas had to ground its fleet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Qatar Airways flew home tens of thousands of vulnerable Australians, according to a spokesperson who talked to 9news.com.au.
According to reports, Qantas is opposed to allowing Qatar Airways wider access to the Australian market.
On Sky News, Mr Al Baker recently stated that if Qatar was given more flights, Australians would have another “alternative.”
“The largest operator in Australia (Qantas) has cut its flights to 50 per cent of pre-COVID level, more than doubled the price of the fares to the Australian people in the benefit of the shareholders,” he said.
Mr Al Baker stated that due to “billions of dollars in state aid” given to Qantas during the coronavirus pandemic, the airline should be able to increase the number of flights it operates.
In response, aviation expert Neil Hansford suggested that Qatar Airways’ criticism of the national carrier could be a diversionary tactic intended to divert attention away from the airline’s lawsuit against five Australian women who claim they were subjected to a strip search at gunpoint at Doha Airport.
Hansford admitted Qatar had “given a lot of lift” for Australia at the same time international borders were closed, but he accused the Middle Eastern carrier of being “opportunist” and seeking to “eat everybody else’s lunch.”
“Qatar Airways is owned by the government of Qatar, which is one of the largest natural gas producers in the world,” Hansford said.
“So it wasn’t as if they had the pressure of shareholders (during the pandemic).
“They will do what’s good for Qatar and take every opportunity to provide more service.”
According to a spokesperson from Qatar Airways, the company is actively seeking to increase the number of weekly flights into Australia in order to correct an “imbalance” in flight market share.
Qatar Airways reported transporting about 32,000 Australians back home and 84,000 international passengers out of Australia between March and June 2020.
“Qatar Airways continued to operate despite the extremely restricted capacity granted to the airline compared to our competitors who, despite having much more capacity entitlements to offer to Australian consumers, decided to cease their operations in Australia,” the spokesperson said.
Qantas has had a partnership with Emirates since 2013, and together, they provide customers with more than 100 codeshare destinations i
Qatar Airways and Emirates are commercial rivals, and political relations between Qatar and the UAE have been contentious in recent years.