Qatar Airways CEO defends Australia flights expansion plan amid resistance

While Qantas works to have this proposal rejected by the Australian government, Qatar Airways intends to double the number of flights it operates to Australia.

Qatar Airways CEO has defended the airline’s intention to increase its services in Australia, despite lobbying against the move by Australian flag carrier Qantas.

The Gulf carrier on 25 October made the proposal to the Australian federal government, indicating that it is prepared to treble the number of flights it operates to the island nation and add additional routes to its existing network.

Through Al Baker’s proposal to boost travels, the Qatari airline is looking to expand flights to Australia to 21 times per week from its hub, Doha Hamad International Airport.

Qantas, however, has exhibited displeasure with the plan.

The Australian flag carrier has based its justification on economic considerations, claiming that by allowing Qatar to boost its frequency to Australia, it be an unlevelled playing field and would serve non-government-owned airlines attempting to regain market share after the Covid-19 turbulence.

“We connected Australian people to the world during the most difficult period in aviation history,” Akbar Al Baker told Sky News.

“We continued uninterrupted at the peak of the COVID, serving the three main points in Australia, which is Sydney, Perth and Melbourne,” said the Gulf carrier CEO.

“We kept Australian people connected. We made sure, at huge losses, that we continued serving the Australian people and the Australian trade during this difficult period.”

Al Baker continued to add that Qantas “completely stopped operating out of Australia, whilst we, at huge losses, continued.”

“What is happening and why we are being stifled from getting additional rights into Australia is the largest operator in Australia has cut its flights to 50 per cent of pre-Covid levels,” he said.

Allowing Qatar to expand frequencies and capacity to Australia would benefit the Gulf carrier especially as the 2022 FIFA World Cup inches closer. However, an increased capacity to and from the Gulf hub poses a threat to Qantas’s market power in its home country, reports analysed.

A senior source from Qantas claimed that Qatar Airways has disregarded a bilateral agreement governing its present Doha to Melbourne service.

The insider claims that the current bilateral arrangement calls for a stopover in Canberra. However, Qatar Airways allegedly skipped the stopover in the Australian capital city and flew straight from its hub to the trip’s end location, they alleged.

Doha News has reached out to Qatar Airways for a comment and has yet to receive a response.

When comparing the major international airlines serving Australia, Emirates has provided the most capacity between 2015 and 2022. Although its capacity will be 20% lower than in 2015, Emirates will still be the top airline by Available Seat Kilometres (ASKs) by the end of this year.

Similarly, although its capacity to Australia would be lower than any year since 2015, Singapore Airlines will come in second. With ASKs 17% lower than in 2018, Qatar Airways takes the third place.

Australia serves as a strategic medium for these airlines as it is connects the oceanic country to Europe.

In 2022, reports argue, the ranking will not change, as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines will retain their position as the top three carriers connecting these two ends of the world.

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