Australia’s ongoing refusal to allow Qatar Airways to operate more flights is costing millions of dollars, according to Travel Weekly reports and the Australian Financial Review.
Under current licences, Qatar is restricted to 28 weekly roundtrip flights to major airports Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney. Meanwhile it enjoys unlimited access to other smaller markets such as Adelaide.
1. National interests
Australia’s Transport Minister, Catherin King, has declined applications from the gulf state carrier to increase flights to Australian destinations by 75%. Doha’s desire to up flights and routes has been deemed to be at odds with Australia’s “national interests”.
We will always consider the need to ensure that there are long-term, well-paid, secure jobs by Australians in the aviation sector when we are making these decisions.Catherin King, Australia’s Transport Minister
This protectionist rationale led Canberra to turn down the Qataris back in July. The refusal is also thought to be influenced by Australian public opinion around a lawsuit brought by a group of Australian women against the gulf airline.
2. Public opinion
In October 2020, the women were forced off a plane at gunpoint and intimately searched at Hamad International Airport, after authorities there discovered an abandoned newborn and put finding the mother above the women’s right to bodily autonomy.
Public opinion may now shift however, following figures revealed by the Australian Financial Review. They show the veto on extra Qatari flights will cost the Australian economy between $540 million and $788 million each year, “based on approximately 50% of seats sold to travelers (sic) overseas,” says Simple Flying.
$540 million to $788 million per annum may not seem that much on national economic scale, but so-called “incremental development” can have a huge compound impact on productivity and standards of living.
3. Briefing war
The issue appears to be turning into a briefing war, with Australian “industry insiders” complaining about Qatar Airways taking matters into their own hands and adding an additional flight by proxy. last autumn Qatar went ahead and turned their Doha–Melbourne route into a Doha–Melbourne–Adelaide route, which they are allowed to do as Adelaide does not fall under aforementioned “major airport” rules. The change entails them operating environmentally catastrophic “ghost flights” (flights with hardly any passengers) between Melbourne and Adelaide.
The Melbourne–Adelaide leg flies empty or below 10% capacity because Qatar must operate it as a “roundtrip” to their home territory, without the right to sell inter-Australian domestic tickets.