Qatar Airways is returning to New Zealand, with three Airbus A350-1000 flights each week from Auckland to its Doha hub resuming from August 19 2020.
However, travellers can expect a twist: rather than being a non-stop service, the route will detour via Brisbane in each direction. Additionally, until New Zealand lifts its tough entry restrictions for international travellers, Qatar Airways will only fly passengers out of NZ, not into the country.
This means that until further notice, passengers will be able to fly from Auckland to Doha, but not from Doha to Auckland. Brisbane-based travellers will be able to book a ticket from Brisbane to Doha and beyond, and return on the Doha-Brisbane leg.
Of course, Australian residents need an exemption from the nation-wide travel ban, and on arrival back in Brisbane will have to enter a 14-day hotel quarantine period at their own expense, with contracted prices pegged at $2,800 for a solo traveller, $3,710 for a couple, $4,165 for two adults with one child and $4,620 for a family of four.
Qatar says when these flights resume, the leg from Brisbane to Auckland will initially carry no passengers, although there'll be plenty of cargo in the A350's belly; likewise, trans-Tasman flights solely from Auckland to Brisbane (without continuing onwards to Doha) will not be for sale.
But as time goes on, Qatar Airways plans for “services between Auckland and Brisbane to start in line with easing of entry restrictions” – indicating that when a ‘travel bubble’ between Australia and New Zealand does finally eventuate, travellers will be able to book with Qatar Airways across the ditch, and enjoy even that short hop in the highly-regarded Qsuites business class.
The airline says the unique Brisbane-Auckland service will run until at least October 23 2020, although this could be extended longer-term, as Qatar Airways has previously hinted of its Brisbane flying.
Qatar Airways' Auckland-Brisbane-Doha flight schedule
On Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays from August 19, Qatar Airways flight QR913 is wheels-up in Auckland at 6:15pm, touching down in Brisbane at 8pm local time after a journey of 3hrs 45min.
After a brief stop on the ground where passengers from Auckland will clear transit security – and those travelling from Brisbane to Doha will join the flight – QR913 continues at 9:30pm, reaching Doha in Qatar at 5:25am the following day.
In reverse, QR912 commences from August 18, pushing back in Doha at 1:25am local time on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, to reach Brisbane at 10:15pm on the same calendar day.
The aircraft will then continue from Brisbane to Auckland without passengers on board, in time to operate the 6:15pm departure the following day as QR913.
Qatar Airways joins other international airlines across the Tasman
Air traffic agreements between Australia and New Zealand allow overseas-based airlines to sell flights between the two countries, on aircraft that are continuing to or from a destination further afield.
Prior to the coronavirus’ shutdown of most international travel in the region, these agreements paved the way for flights such as Singapore-Melbourne-Wellington on Singapore Airlines, Dubai-Sydney-Christchurch on Emirates, Santiago-Auckland-Sydney on LATAM, and Taipei-Brisbane-Auckland on Taiwan’s China Airlines.
In all cases, passengers can fly solely between Australia and New Zealand without a ticket to the third country: such as by booking Emirates from Sydney to Christchurch and back, without venturing to the UAE, or from Brisbane to Auckland with China Airlines, without visiting Taiwan.
When Qatar Airways does open up trans-Tasman flight sales – and passengers are able to more freely travel between Australia and New Zealand – travellers would similarly be able to fly Qatar Airways, including in Qsuites business class, on the quick hop from Brisbane to Auckland.
For frequent flyers who took advantage of Qatar Airways’ recent status match opportunity, this would provide an opportunity not only to enjoy the benefits of that status, but also to secure those perks for another year, by earning ‘Qpoints’ (the Qatar equivalent of status credits) on Qatar’s trans-Tasman flights.
Under the Qatar Airways Privilege Club program, members require a certain number of Qpoints to retain their Privilege Club Silver, Gold or Platinum card each year, and at least 20% of those Qpoints must come from Qatar Airways flights, not from partner airline flights, such as journeys with Qantas.