Qatar Airways hopes to permanently add Brisbane to its route map, with the carrier formally requesting “a reasonable increase” to its Australian traffic rights.
That increase would allow for year-round Brisbane flights, without sacrificing services to other Australian cities. Currently, the airline can run 21 weekly return flights from Doha to its choice of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.
Pre-COVID, these were consumed by daily services to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, leaving no room for Brisbane.
Qatar Airways can also operate a further seven weekly return flights via one of these airports into another city: rights the airline used to add Canberra to its network, via the capital’s closest major hub, Sydney.
Speaking at this week’s CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker confirmed the airline’s application for additional flights, adding that “we hope that the government of Australia, the Deputy Prime Minister that is in charge of transportation, will consider our request for a reasonable increase.”
Qatar Airways vs Emirates
Drawing a comparison to Qatar Airways’ Gulf competitor Emirates, Al Baker added that “we don’t want to come five times a day to Sydney and five times a day to Melbourne, and connect Auckland to Melbourne and Sydney, and go four times a day to Perth… we are reasonable, and we want to serve the people of Australia.”
Beyond Australia’s four biggest airports, plus Canberra, Qatar Airways also operates flights to Adelaide, which aren’t subject to the cap.
Speaking with Executive Traveller on the sidelines of the CAPA Summit, Qatar Airways’ Vice President Pacific, Thomas Lee Scruby, adds, “we would absolutely love to service Brisbane on a daily basis.”
“I think the demand is there for us to do so. To support Queensland has been a dream of Qatar Airways for many years and I really hope we can do that in the future.”
Qatar Airways is currently flying to Brisbane – and onwards to Auckland – until October 23 under a temporary operating permit.
Friendlier foes: Qantas vs Qatar Airways
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce has previously opposed Qatar Airways’ requests for more Australian flights, but Al Baker hopes the airlines can put any differences aside and strengthen their ties going forward.
“It all depends on my friend Alan!” Al Baker quips.
“Qantas had to stop international flights to save the cost … (and) your second national carrier – Emirates! – completely pulled out all their frequencies from your country,” jests Al Baker, “while we sustained, and we actually increased flights.”
“We have offered to work with Qantas … we are part of the Qantas alliance: part of Oneworld. Unfortunately, maybe Alan is in a predicament because he has a long-term understanding or agreement with Emirates, but we are open, we are ready to work as part of both an alliance, and an operator into the Australian market.”
Qantas and Emirates maintain a Joint Venture partnership, providing for closer collaboration than would be typical between standard members of an alliance like Oneworld, such as between Qantas and Qatar Airways.
Major airlines based in the United Arab Emirates – that’s Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways – are currently allowed a total of 168 return flights per week between Australia and the UAE.
That's six times as many flights as Qatar Airways is permitted into Australia’s four major airports.
Still, “we have to respect the bilateral caps and we'll work closely with the Australian Government through this. We’ve still got a long way to go,” Scruby says.