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Qantas will soon be selling tickets on Emirates flights, following the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) giving an 'interim authorisation' to the Qantas-Emirates partnership.
The decision also allows Qantas and Emirates to begin working together on issues such as pricing, scheduling and capacity across the new Qantas/Emirates network in readiness for the April 1 commencement of the partnership, pending final ACCC approval expected in March.
"The ACCC is allowing Qantas and Emirates to start implementing their alliance because of the long lead time required to market and sell tickets before the commencement of long-haul services," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.
“In making its decision, the ACCC has accepted written assurances from the parties that should the ACCC ultimately decide not to allow the alliance to go ahead, the airlines will accommodate consumers' bookings.''
Qantas expects that its QF-EK fares "are expected to be available in coming weeks once discussions on pricing have taken place", but would be for travel after April 1 and remain subject to regulatory approval.
However, ACCC's interim approval doesn't extend to Qantas and Emirates working out the details of on their planned trans-Tasman services.
The watchdog flagged this as an area of concern in its draft approval issued in December because "the alliance may have an increased ability and incentive to reduce or limit growth in its capacity in order to raise airfares."
Earlier this week Sims said that the Qantas-Emirates alliance offered more benefits for Australian travellers than any potential downside in "competitive detriment".
What the Qantas-Emirates alliance means to travellers
Under the proposal, Qantas will adopt Emirates’ home of Dubai as a new strategically-located hub in the Middle East.
Qantas will continue to fly daily to London on its flagship Airbus A380s, however as of 31 March 2013 the daily Sydney-London (QF1/2) and Melbourne-London (QF9/10) services will stopover in Dubai rather than Singapore. (Frankfurt flights will continue to go via Singapore until October 2013.)
If you're heading to any European city other than London, Dubai is where you'll change planes and airlines, with an Emirates flight to your final destination.
This is a substantial win for travellers. With Emirates flying to some 30 cities across the UK and Europe you'll be just one hop from almost every major city, whereas the current Qantas model would have you transfer at London or Frankfurt and take another flight – your third after the Australia-Singapore and Singapore-London/Frankfurt legs.
Qantas passengers outside Melbourne and Sydney will catch Emirates flights to Dubai -- see what you'll find on board in business class,Emirates' first class suites or the Gulf carrier's somewhat inconsistent economy -- but with the option to be able to funnel frequent flyer points and status credits towards their Qantas account rather than Emirates' Skywards scheme.
But you'll want to read the fine print carefully: you'll collect Qantas status credits only if you book on a Qantas QF flight number, not on an Emirates EK-coded flight.
Qantas Frequent Flyer members will also get reciprocal treatment based on Skywards tiers: if you're a Qantas Gold, for example, you'll have the same perks such as priority checkin, a higher checked luggage allowance and lounge access as a Skywards Gold on Emirates.
For more information: read this set of frequently-asked questions on the Qantas Emirates alliance and visit qantasandemirates.com.