Qatar Airways will begin daily flights between Canberra and Doha via Sydney from mid-February 2018, in a move which will also see Gulf carrier's Sydney-Doha route increase to a double-daily service.
The Oneworld airline and de facto Qantas partner has slated a Boeing 777-300ER for the Canberra-Sydney-Doha flights, with QR907 taking off from Canberra at 1.45pm to reach Sydney one hour later. That first flight is schedule for February 13, 2018.
After another hour's stopover, QR907 will be wheels-up at 3.55pm and bound for Doha, where it will land at 10.30pm.
The QR906 return leg leaves Doha at 8.10am for a 6.15am arrival into Sydney the following day; an hour later it's on to Canberra for an 8.25am touchdown.
The new flights will complement Qatar's current daily QR908/QR909 Airbus A380 flight between Sydney and Doha.
And before you ask, Qatar won't be able to sell the leg between Sydney and Canberra for domestic flights.
Eligible passengers, including business class travellers and Qantas Gold and Platinum frequent flyers, will however be able to use Qantas' domestic lounges at Canberra before their flight – although we doubt there'll be any time to pop into the Qantas international lounges at Sydney Airport during that brief stop-over.
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However, the Oneworld airline has not confirmed if the flights would be routed via Sydney, as previously tipped by CEO Akbar Al Baker.
Under that scenario, the service would see an early evening flight out of Canberra linking the national capital to Qatar's network of flights into the UK, Europe and South Africa – albeit with two stopovers at Sydney and Doha.
It would also provide a second Sydney-Doha flight to supplement the current Airbus A380.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, speaking with Aviation Week following the launch of the airline's direct Doha-Auckland flight, predicted the Canberra flights would launch in February 2018 provided current limits on international flights between Australia and Qatar are loosened.
Those limits cap the number flights with the Qatar flag-carrier can make in Australia, and Qatar Airways has already hit the ceiling – although future discussions could allow more flights ot lead to an unrestricted 'open skies' arrangement between the two countries.
Speaking with Australian Business Traveller in February this year, a spokesperson for Qatar Airways cautioned the plans "were yet to be finalised" and flagged the Canberra-Sydney-Doha route as "a potential flight scenario, subject to bilateral discussions between the Australian and Qatari governments."
If the flights go ahead, travellers from Canberra could end up making the 15+ hour flight to Doha on Qatar's Airbus A350 jetliner, which carries 36 modern business class seats with every passenger enjoying direct access to the aisle and a fully flat bed.
Canberra Airport is eager to see more international flights following the September 2016 launch of Singapore Airlines' Singapore-Canberra-Wellington flights, which positioned Canberra as a springboard between the Singaporean and New Zealand capitals.
Qatar Airways is also looking at a second daily flight to Melbourne from mid-2018, following the mid-2017 upgrade of the Melbourne-Doha service from a Boeing 777 to the airline's flagship Airbus A380 superjumbo, and is considering direct Brisbane-Doha flights if air traffic caps are lifted.
As a member of the global Oneworld airline alliance, Qatar Airways allows passengers to earn Qantas frequent flyer points and status credits, and use their Qantas Points to reserve a seat.
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