The proposed alliance between Qantas and Emirates carries more benefits for Australian travellers than any potential downside in "competitive detriment" says the head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), as the Government watchdog weighs up final approval for a tie-up between the two airlines.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims says it comes down to assessing the proposed Qantas/Emirates deal "on a net benefit basis."
"Now we decided that there wasn't that much competitive detriment from Qantas and Emirates getting together and yet we could see some material benefits for people who fly Qantas and Emirates" Sims told ABC Radio this morning.
"They'll get more connections to various routes, they'll benefit on joining up their frequent flyer programs, things of that nature."
"So we saw material benefits. I mean they weren't massive but we didn't see much competitive detriment so on that basis in a draft decision that's out for comment now, approved the deal."
In the clearest indication yet of the ACCC's thinking and how the final decision is shaping up, Sims explains that while he didn't see many changes to Qantas "flying to the US or Asia, for example" if the Emirates hookup didn't go ahead, "we did think that they are under some pressure on the European legs but we didn't think there was going to much change there."
"It's a very competitive route there so whether Qantas and Emirates combine or not, there really isn't going to be much competitive detriment because of all the other airlines that can help you fly between Australia and Europe" Sims said.
"I mean the fact that Virgin is tied up with Etihad just indicates that other companies are arranging these sorts of tie ups as well and that it's a very competitive market out there."
For a full transcript and audio recording of the interview, visit ABC News.