Executive Traveller exclusive
Qatar Airways is putting the brakes on its planned return to Canberra, with the Canberra-Melbourne-Doha route suspended just days before the first flight was due to take off on Saturday October 1.
The daily Canberra service will now start on December 2, with QR989 departing the Australian capital at 1pm for the quick trip to Melbourne – where, after a two-hour stopover, it will be wheels-up at 4.15pm for the long 14½-hour trek to Qatar’s Doha hub.
Qatar Airways confirmed the move in a statement to Executive Traveller, saying “due to operational reasons we have delayed the start of our Canberra services.”
“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to passengers who are currently booked to travel on QR988 and QR989 to and from Canberra,” an airline spokesperson said.
“All passengers will be provided with alternative travel arrangements and will be assisted to ensure smooth onward connections to their final destination.”
In the October-to-December interim, Qatar’s website suggests connecting flights from Canberra to Melbourne with Qantas and Virgin Australia (the airline is in the unique position of being a partner to both), alongside flights from Canberra to Sydney and Brisbane so as to dovetail into Qatar’s evening flights from those cities.
The airline’s second daily Melbourne-Doha flight will still proceed from October 1, with the late afternoon departure of QR989 complementing the evening QR905 service at 10.20pm.
Both flights are on a Boeing 777 outfitted with Qatar Airways’ widely-acclaimed business class Qsuites.
Canberra first landed on the airline’s network map in 2018 as an add-on leg for a second Sydney service, before being scrapped in 2020.
This article has been updated from an earlier version to reflect Qatar Airways’ rescheduling the start of Canberra flights from October 1 to December 2, 2022.
Melbourne goes from strength to strength
The twice-daily flights to Melbourne recognise what Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker notes as “the original home for Qatar Airways in Australia.”
“The launch of the additional daily flight to Melbourne ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will allow more football fans travel to attend their respective matches.”
The 2022 FIFA World Cup takes place in Qatar from November 21 to December 18.
“Qatar Airways is already a favourite with passengers heading to the Middle East or Europe, and given their partnerships with both Virgin Australia and Qantas, we expect these new flights will prove very popular,” added Melbourne Airport CEO Lorie Argus.
As previously reported, a fresh loyalty pact between Qatar Airways Privilege Club and Accor ALL will see members of both rewards programs enjoy the ability to ‘double-dip’ on points and take a fast track to the top status tiers for the airline and hotel group.
Qatar is also set to launch “a market-leading proposition for business travellers… between Australia, the Middle East and Europe” in concert with Virgin Australia.