OPINION | At 8am on Sunday, WA time, the last regularly scheduled Qantas international flight left Perth.
With the departure of Singapore-bound QF77, Qantas will no longer operate any international flights from Australia's fastest-growing capital apart from short-term seasonal services such as the return of QF77/78 from July 3-21 and a twice-weekly Perth-Auckland flight from December 5, 2014 to April 26, 2015.
This is despite Qantas CEO Alan Joyce praising Perth for its "pace of development and the sense of energy and optimism that comes with it," and predicting that "WA will continue to play a lead role in the Australian economy."
So what are the alternatives any Perth-based frequent flyers who wish to remain loyal to the Flying Kangaroo?
Qantas is quick to point to its low-cost offshoot Jetstar Asia, which continues to fly the Perth-Singapore route.
In fact, passengers who held Qantas tickets for travel on QF77/78 after May 12 are being rebooked onto Jetstar Asia.
But let's get serious: Jetstar Asia is not Qantas. Business travellers who are used to booking business class on Qantas will not happily hop onto Jetstar Asia.
Nor will they cheerily fly from Perth to Sydney or Melbourne in order to connect to a Qantas international flight, adding over five hours plus transit time to their overall journey.
Certainly not to Asia, when Qantas' Oneworld 'partners' such as Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines and competitors like Garuda Indonesia, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways all offer direct flights from Perth to their respective capital cities and international gateways.
Business travellers who value timely schedules, comfort and the ability to work, rest and relax during international travel will look seriously at these options.
Emirates: the missing link?
Qantas' big hope is Emirates, which admittedly offers dozens of destinations in the UK, Europe and Africa with just a single stopover at Dubai.
And Emirates is an excellent airline. However, compared to travelling on Qantas, there are several shortfalls when booking an Emirates flight.
For many tall travellers, and those just looking to stretch out, being able to secure an exit row at the time of booking when flying in economy is essential.
While Qantas allow you to pre-purchase an exit seat aboard its aircraft, Emirates does not allow pre-allocation of exit row seats on any of its flights – even if booked via Qantas.
Perth customers wanting an exit row when travelling on a Qantas ticket to Europe now have to get to the airport early in the hope that an exit on the Emirates aircraft is available.
The option to pay for the comfort of premium economy is also gone. Qantas offers one of the best premium economy cabins in the air, but Emirates has no premium economy – it's a choice between economy and business.
Also, there's no facility for upgrading from economy to business on an Emirates flight using your Qantas Frequent Flyer points.
Speaking of points, you'll have to be sure to book any Emirates flight from Perth as a Qantas 'codeshare service' under the Qantas QF flight number in order to earn your full serve of frequent flyer points plus status credits.
With Qantas’ shrinking presence in Perth, many WA-based travellers have taken to Oneworld partner airlines such as Cathay Pacific (to Hong Kong), Malaysia Airlines (to Kuala Lumpur) and Qatar Airways (to Doha).
However, from July 1, Qantas will reduce the number of status credits earned when flying on Oneworld partners by as much as half.
This is being done to encourage customers to fly internationally aboard Qantas aircraft – an impractical, time-consuming option for most Perth travellers – or on Qantas-coded flights on Emirates aircraft.
Many travellers choose Qantas because they like 'the Qantas experience' – something which is more than the sum of individual parts such as the airport lounges, seats, meals and service.
The uniquely Australian 'Qantas experience' means something to many thousands of Australian international travellers. But for Perth passengers, at least in the short term, this experience is largely a thing of the past.
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