Government blocks Qatar Airways bid for more Australian flights

The Gulf airline has been denied extra flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

By David Flynn, July 19 2023
Government blocks Qatar Airways bid for more Australian flights

Qatar Airways’ hopes to increase the number of flights into Australia has been rejected by the Federal Government, despite the ongoing surge in post-pandemic travel and a shortage of overall airline capacity keeping international airfares sky-high.

The Gulf carrier, which is a partner to both Qantas and Virgin Australia, currently faces a strict limit on how many flights per week it can offer from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane under a strict “bilateral air rights” agreement with the Australian government.

At the time of writing the schedule stands at double-daily flights from its Doha hub to Melbourne with one daily service from Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

However, the Qatari flag-carrier had been seeking to add 21 flights - or one extra service per day – into Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, which would lift it closer to the levels long enjoyed by the likes of Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Emirates.

“I don’t think is a very big ask to the authorities” stated Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker at the time, aiming for a goodwill decision based on the airline continuing to operate international flights to Australia during the pandemic at a time when many international airlines stopped flying.

Al Baker singled out Oneworld sibling Qantas, saying the carrier suspended most international flights except for special repatriation services operated under government subsidy.

But it proved too big an ask for Transport Minister Catherine King, who confirmed overnight “the Australian government is not considering additional bilateral air rights with Qatar.”

This won’t prevent Qatar Airways from adding flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane via “secondary” ports such as Canberra and Adelaide, in a repeat of the pre-pandemic launch of a Doha-Sydney-Canberra route which delivered a second Sydney flight at the cost of an almost-empty jet on the Canberra leg.

The Financial Review notes Qatar’s bid “was understood to have had the support of state premiers keen to see more international tourists return. But another industry source said granting Qatar more landing rights would potentially destabilise the landscape as other airlines return to full capacity.”

Meanwhile, The Australian suggests the proposal faced opposition from Qantas “on the basis it was unfair and would result in the loss of Australian jobs”, noting Qatar Airways’ recent high-profile alliance with Qantas arch-rival Virgin Australia.

When approached by Executive Traveller, Qantas declined to comment.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 319

Rejected, typical Australia, Qantas has a sook, the Govt folds, and people wonder why flights are expensive. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Nov 2016

Total posts 50

Good old Australian protectionism again.  

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

26 Jul 2012

Total posts 37

Just to be clear,  this article suggests that QR would have been at the level SQ, CX and EK would have been at, had the Minister approved their expansion, yet at the time I wrote this SQ had 3 x 380 flights to Syd plus a 777, 4 daily flights to Melb! 

No, this article doesn't suggest that the extra flights would put QR "at the same level as SQ, CX and EK", it says "the Qatari flag-carrier had been seeking to add one extra daily flight each for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, which would lift it closer to the levels long enjoyed by the likes of Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Emirates." That just means QR would be able to close the gap, eg 2x SYD and 3x MEL.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Jun 2019

Total posts 22

This is very narrow-minded of the Australian Government. Maybe Qatar will need to bring back more A380s into their fleet so they can increase capacity. 

01 Oct 2021

Total posts 19

Unfortunately they don’t have enough left in its fleet. They have a total of 10 A380s and 8 of them are currently active flying to London Heathrow, Bangkok, Sydney and Perth. The other 2 are most likely never coming back in service. 


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 943

All that does is increase the price Qatar would be willing to spend in shares in Virgin Australia, which then opens further opportunities......... 

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 161

".....potentially destabilise the landscape..."

For which read: daring to cut into QANTAS' revenue and profits. A decision from a minister who enjoys the red carpet treatment from QF (along with the rest of her cabinet colleagues and Opposition counterparts). Absolutely craven and self-serving decision by a politician. How not surprising.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

09 Aug 2016

Total posts 34

So, Qantas lobbied the government not to approve it is what I take from that.

Qatar should stop flights here completely and tell this retarded government to go get F. Qatar are a very well developed airline, Qantas are failing. 

Thanks Qantas. Competition is overrated i guess?

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 418

What a terrible decision by the Australian Goverment, and a slap in the face of an airline which helped bring so many Aussies home during the pandemic, as well as enabling people who HAD to travel to get where they needed to go. All this was done at a huge cost to Qatar Airways, as it was not receiving any subsidy from the Australian Government, and this is the thanks the airline gets?

There is NO reason QR should not be allowed the same very generous landing rights as EK, SQ, EY and so many others. All that extra capacity would help bring airfares down and once again make travel affordable for so many people, from small business owners to families.

It's pure politics and commercial rat-baggery that Qantas has pushed to block this, the airline is almost back to its own full international pre-pandemic capacity and only last month said it would be back to 100% by early 2024.

QR mainly carries Aussies to Europe and the UK and South Africa, with some from Perth using them to fly to western parts of India, and Qantas has all its European routes back in place and since the pandemic ended has ADDED Rome and Delhi and Bangalore, so Qantas claims that extra QR flights will "result in the loss of Australian jobs" is a joke, a farce, unless Qantas is simply afraid of the competition from QR, which sets a much higher bar for business class and even economy. Maybe it's time Qantas lifted its own game instead of trying to block a competitor.

Of course another reason QF is blocking this is because of the QR-VA alliance, anything which hurts QR by not adding flights thus also hurts VA by reducing the appeal of this earn-and-burn and status partner, reducing available Velocity rewards seats and therefore in theory making VA and Velocity less appealing to Aussie flyers.

Come on, Qantas, time to put on your 'big boy pants' and lift your own game instead of running around the corridors of Canberra lobbying and playing politics to stop a respected airline which has done so much for this country during the pandemic, more than you did in fact, from even approaching the number of flights already given to many other international airlines.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2015

Total posts 3

I absolutely agree, disgraceful actions....

03 May 2021

Total posts 43

What an absolute joke. Makes us look like a laughing stock.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1201

I guess QR may look to move more of its MEL and SYD flights towards A380s to make use of the available slots it is allowed.

01 Oct 2021

Total posts 19

Sydney already has daily A380. Melbourne has double daily 77W so I doubt they would bring the A380 to Melbourne when it’s going to Perth aswell daily. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1201

Supplementing the A380 instead of smaller 77Ws or A350s would be the only way they could increase Australian non-stop capacity from MEL, SYD or BNE.  

I'm not sure they are too attracted to operating through lesser ports such as HBA or CBR.  No one has had much success doing that. 


05 Jun 2023

Total posts 2

Yeah probably going to keep the schedule the same

04 Sep 2019

Total posts 50

New headline "Qantas Blocks Qatar Airways Competition"

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 106

I can now imagine VA will get widebodies back into the fleet, sooner rather than later. Hopefully we'll also see VA ditch BoB for Long haul flights (Haneda service) as I doubt Qatar would like any codeshared flights to Doha being closer to Cebu pacific in inflight service. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 91

This is outrageous. Utterly ridiculous and infuriating. I don't know what else to say...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2013

Total posts 136

I wonder if this could be legally challenged? How could Emirates, Singapore etc get more access and Qatar does not get the same rights? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 371

Ridiculous decision from a useless Government.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2017

Total posts 6

It's a bit rich for Qantas to say it would result in the loss of Australian jobs when they don't even have enough planes to put on any additional international capacity themselves. If you're not willing to fill the capacity gap yourself then step outta the way!

Sad VA 2.0 doesn't have any widebodies - you could otherwise imagine QR asking them to operate to DOH like QR and TK are doing with 6E out of India to get around bilat rights issues. 

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 240

An insane and insulting decision by the government. Completely ignores the reality of things, although this is what you expect from the 'Canberra bubble'. Qantas is almost back to 100% international capacity, there are NO jobs at stake here, many other airlines have more flights to Australia than Qatar Airways, overall capacity is still constrained by factors such as lack of aircraft including slow delivery of new aircraft, plus shortage of cabin crew, resulting in sky-high airfares. And here is QR with a modern fleet, more and more A350s arriving, enough pilots and crew, eager to bring those aircraft to Australia, and the government says "Nope." Incredibly disappointing!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 251

If there was an appealing case for Qatar to go double daily flights, there is a work around to buy a major stake in VA and operate widebodies under VA name to Doha as codeshare. Similar when VA went to Abu Dhabi. I say that for 2 reasons - previous rumours for Qatar buying into VA + Qatar CEO Al Baker has an ego that doesn't like to be bruised.

Can't agree with this decision, there is no logic to it at all, the arguments make zero sense. As many other people have said here, not only do we actually NEED more flights and capacity right now, but this is NO actual threat to Qantas jobs or routes unless people simply like the QR product or price or network better, and that's simply called 'competition', which the Government has no right in blocking to favour Qantas. But no surprise as Qantas and Emirates both stand to lose the most from more Qatar Airways flights. Said, very said.

Qatar Privilage Club

31 Mar 2023

Total posts 9

A few things to note here already mentioned I am sure.

Qantas is not the "Spirit of Australia" but the "Embarrassment of Australia" and for the government to reject addition flight slots for Qatar is not in the "Spirit of Australia"

Qantas is obviously scared of the competition noting Qatar's perfect safety record, modern fleet of aircraft, fantastic crew, beautiful modern lounges, on board hard product offerings.

Qatar adding extra flights would create additional Australian jobs, no brainer!

Competition is good for consumers and keeps the likes of Qantas honest.

Extra flights by Qatar = more tourists to Australia not to mention bringing families together.

And as for the Australian government all I can say is bring on the next election, narrow minded morons.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Apr 2016

Total posts 13

Bryon the LNP Gov,t that you would obviously prefer were also narrow minded morons because they also refused to allow more flights by Qatar when they were in power.

The big problem I see here is the Qantas /Emirates tie up.

I have no doubts Emirates lobbied as hard as Qantas to veto this .

It allows Qantas to continue with LCC service at premium carrier costs to the public.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2018

Total posts 16

Singapore and Emirates have multiple flights per day into Sydney and Melbourne, therefore you could only assume Qatar would receive the same treatment and how true that Qantas left people stranded around the globe, but Qatar, as Emirates, continued to fly during covid, even though passengers numbers were crazy low.  To have to go via Adelaide or Canberra seems a careless move when it comes to the environment and cost management.....costs which will end up being added to the already high ticket prices.  We do live in a weird world.

05 Dec 2017

Total posts 19

Perhaps time for the new federal corruption commission to investigate Qantas's stranglehold over government decision making. Why is access to the Chairman's Lounge not seen as outright bribery?

25 Nov 2022

Total posts 4 

The NACC takes submissions from anyone who wants to report possible corrupt behaviour.


03 May 2013

Total posts 668

Malaysian have 6 A380's, Lufthansa has a few laying around too....seems the only real solution here. Get the checkbook out al bakr.

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 95

Here is an idea. 

In addition to posting comments on here, email or call the minister with your feedback. Don't forget to cc your local federal members (both upper and lower houses) and your State Govt representatives too.

[email protected]

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2017

Total posts 119

Hey David,

In the article you say :

“The Gulf carrier, which is a partner to both Qantas and Virgin Australia, currently faces a strict limit on how many flights per week it can offer from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane under a strict “bilateral air rights” agreement with the Australian government.” 

However, the Qatari flag-carrier had been seeking to add one extra daily flight each for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth,

What is stopping them adding the second Daily Perth then flight if the bilateral air rights agreement is only for SYD, MEL, BNE?  

I Always thought the bilateral agreement included Perth also (the 4 largest cities) 

With the Perth daily flight currently served by A380 it would be good to get some Q suites back on a 351/77W for a second daily flight  

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 95

Qatar should fly to the Gold Coast.  The airport will soon be void of any widebody international flights and I'd think the airport would be willing do incentivise them (as well as the QLD Govt).

I'd think they could fill 3 or 4 787s per week, maybe running half direct and half via SEA (just not SIN as that would interfere  with VAs partnership with SA).

They would easily attract plenty of paying passengers from SEQ and Northern NSW.  

Not sure there would be THAT much demand from the Gold Coast or even back TO the Gold Coast for overseas visitors, but why not. I reckon if the Govt doesn't change its tune here QR might do these 'add-on' legs such as BNE-OOL, SYD-CBR and MEL-ADL etc and take the loss on a near-empty aircraft on that leg for the uplift in passengers out of the actual target city. I think one issue with CBR was that a second crew was actually needed to allow for the SYD-CBR leg due to the total amount of extra time taken by the SYD-CBR-SYD detour.

At this stage nobody would blame QR if they decided to become an investor in Virgin Australia, it's not as if Qatar lacks money and not as if Bain would say no to having someone else's money to spend, and the QR could add serious muscle to the QR-VA partnership, which would only make things worse for Qantas, and then Qantas would have nobody to blame but themselves.

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 95

GC is very different to both CBR and ADL for lots of different reasons.  Plus the demographic of the GC has changed a lot over the past decade (accelerated during Covid) and will continue to change as people relocating and retirees downsizing to spend on travel continue to move here.

There is a large English, Irish, Indian and South African community here, many companies doing business overseas, and young people travelling. It would also create a great opportunity for the QLD and GC tourism bodies to promote SEQ to new markets.

The GCs population is over 700k now, and when you add in south Brisbane (even out to Ipswich) and Northern NSW you're well over a million and perhaps close to 1.25 or even more.  Whilst budget carriers, Scoot had good loads and JQs flights to Japan were always high loads (I believe). I'm sure the GC airport would be open to charges that meant QR could have lower fares from the GC which just might entice those north of the river in BNE to trek south.

Qatars 788s would be the right size, 3 or 4 flights a week (Sat, Sun, Tue, Thur) would be good. 

Of course I feel Singapore should do the same tbh, and they'd probably be a better fit due to their Asian network.

But it is time for OOL to rethink it's international flight attractiveness away from the budgets. 

And good point re QR investing in VA, that would be interesting and would be interesting to see the Govt's reaction. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2015

Total posts 53

I am not so sure about OOL. Has a FSC ever regularly serviced the Gold Coast? It seems to be the domain of a host of LCC and even they seemingly can't get it too work consistently when you look towards 2 of the biggest ones in TR and JQ and their upcoming withdrawal.

Additionally, I just don't think OOL is considered by many who live north of Springwood as an option vs BNE. I've had many opportunities to select OOL as a departure point but the hassle of getting there with limited (read simple) public transport or battling the M1 have not made it worth my while for the $ saving.

100% agree though - stupid decision to not increase QR's access, particularly out of BNE where QF is virtually irrelevant internationally IMO

13 Sep 2022

Total posts 6

This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard all day. Just when aviation is in desperate need of more capacity, our joke of a government shuts down any solutions, claiming it would "destabilise the landscape as other airlines return to capacity". I think that should be reworded as "Interfere with Qantas' aggressive expansion, and we don't want to make papa Qantas cry." This is an absolute joke. 

09 Aug 2015

Total posts 98

Big mistake by the government here, what ever happened to 'competition'? Oh that's right, Qantas and Emirates don't like it when someone competes with them and could 'steal' their customers, well more like QF giving their customers no reason to stay loyal.

I know the new Western Sydney Airport is still a couple of years away but I really hope this is not officially categorised by the Government as a 'Sydney' airport so that QR flights to it would not be counted in the same cap which limits flights to SYD. That plus no curfew, as QR likes flights to depart very late because that works best in arrivals and transits at Doha, and also that so many people live closer to WSI compared to SYD, would make Western Sydney Airport vert attractive to Qatar.

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 95

It's going to be interesting to watch what international flights WSI attracts.  I can't see SYD accepting any tier 1 carriers moving or adding flights there. I sense it's going to be the likes of Jetstar, Air Asia, Cebu etc.

04 Sep 2019

Total posts 50

no curfew, way better transport links (when its completed), far greater density of people nearby, flush with the latest modern airport facilities. sounds like it will be a bit of a cargo hub as well.

I think we will be surprised at the big players who sign up. 

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1025

It would appear that people haven't been paying attention to what's been going on with this entire matter.

Under the air service agreement with Qatar, they are allowed to fly to the major 4 Australian airports (MEL, SYD, BNE, PER) 28 times per week, +7 more provided they go to or via another port. Other ports are unlimited.

For the past decade, they've been getting 7 more flights every 2-3 years. They just got another 7 weekly flights not long after the Australian borders reopened. They likely would have gotten another 7 next year or the year after.

It is likely that they didn't get their "request" to double the current limited allowance because of the games they've been playing with their +7 to/via allowance. The 2nd MEL flight QR is currently operating is meant to be using that +7 to/via allowance and they aren't using it as such.

Maybe QR should show that they can follow the existing requirements before they demand more. The air service agreement limits were suspended while the borders were closed, and it appears that QR got greedy.

If they want more flights to Melbourne, there is nothing stopping them adding flights to AVV.

If they want more flights to Brisbane, there is nothing stopping them adding flights to OOL.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 161

It would appear that we, frequent fliers of six decades(!) standing and interest in the Australian civil aviation industry, know EXACTLY what is going on...especially in regard to backroom lobbying and free gifts (Chairman's Lounge memberships) which are handed out to pollies of all stripes! There's far more to this than the minutiae of detail you've outlined.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2023

Total posts 1

This is very disappointing to hear as Qatar is a great option when flying to anywhere in Europe via the Middle East and in particular that they are one of the few Airlines that flies into Larnaca, Cyprus direct from Doha when flying from the East coast of Australia. The alternative is Emirates however with their own price gouging tactics (Similar to QF)  with their exorbitant fees being charged on both paid and redemption flights more flight options to this region would be quite refreshing to hear. Further to this, Qatar Avios is about to be added to American Express rewards program from August which will give card members another redemption option which is amazing considering Emirates are moving to a 3 Amex points to 2 Skywards points redemption rate which is another slap in the face to cardmembers. I am also pleased to see that Turkish Airlines will be hopefully a new contender in the market flying initially from Australia to Istanbul via Asia and in the near future direct will no doubt be the best paid option in J class when they begin operating.

08 May 2020

Total posts 42

Very disappointing.  The approval would have improved the landscape for Australians, Rex, Virgin and Bonza (increasing demand for a more domestic options).  An approval might have moved us away from monopoly to duopoly.  Very poor form from a Government department in my opinion.

09 Aug 2015

Total posts 98

Qantas claiming more Qatar Airways flights will lead to a loss of Australian jobs, LOL, pull the other one. Qantas is still trying to hire people as it is, is apparently going overseas to get A220 pilots, oh and it's also been talking up its new pilot, crew and engineering training programs over the past few months. None of this is in jeopardy if QR adds extra flights, and meanwhile doesn't more inbound flights also mean more inbound tourists which is good for the economy, oh and might even help add jobs in hospitality, retail etc? Come on, this is just the AU government indulging in protection and favouritism.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 442

Such a ridiculous decision. Qantas don't fly to the Middle East at all, and the only two destinations the carriers actually compete on are to London and Rome. 

Qantas have far more competition from Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific yet they don't seem to mind how much capacity those airlines have to Australia.

I could see Qatar bringing back CBR-SYD to add a second SYD daily departure with a 777 or A350.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2017

Total posts 30

People here in Canberra really wanted Qatar Airways to resume flights, but we've heard very little from them since they pulled out during Covid.  I am not sympathetic to their pleas for extra capacity to Australia when they ignore the viable secondary cities in Australia.    From what I've heard, Qatar Airways was well patronised by the Canberra public.   The same goes for Singapore Airlines...  and lets now even mention Qantas, who have shown no interest in having direct international flights from Canberra.       We are however very grateful for Fijian Airways who  start direct service to Nadi this very week, with seamless connections onto North America.     Nadi is by far much better for us than transiting Sydney, and offers a great stopover as well.    I believe FJ will do very well with their Canberra flights.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 93

This is a policy failure for the people of Australia by the government and the minister should be held responsible. This keeps airfares high, loss of Australian jobs is nonsense as Qantas carries out maintenance/refurbish works overseas, has closed all but one call centre by moving those overseas as well. It couldn't even park its A380s in Australia during the pandemic like Singapore Airlines but sent them to the U.S. It is a bit rich on the one hand behaving in a predatory way towards any small airline that has started in Australia leading to their demise and yet ask for protection from larger airlines that wish to increase capacity. More capacity means more tourists and that means more jobs. Ultimately this decision serves the Airline not the people nor the tourist industry of Australia.

19 Jul 2023

Total posts 1

Himeno has nailed it. QR played games in the post-Covid ramp-up - taking bookings for CBR flights that they had little or no intention of operating, on the assumption that the Australian Government would roll over and allow QR to simply operate the MEL-DOH legs. They twice completely abandoned CBR pax at short notice in October and December 2022 (your flight now starts and ends in MEL, get your own way there). Whilst of course I would love to have more competition - for all the reasons so many people have stated - we should not reward such arrogance from QR.  


28 Sep 2022

Total posts 16

Why not just wet lease the flights to VA? Problem solved.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

03 Nov 2013

Total posts 11

Pleased to welcome a fifth freedom or direct land from QR in HBA.. We have MONA and more...

Ceeya soon,... hopefully?


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 162

Keep demand high but supply low and price-gouging will remain rife. QF want it this way.

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