There is an excellent argument to be made that the tiny nation of Qatar in the Persian Gulf has been mentioned in the Hansard of the Australian government more times in the past week than at any other point in time in its entire history.
This entire saga revolves around Qatar Airways and the decision made by the Albanian government to deny the airline’s proposal to increase the number of flights it operates to Australia.
The request for additional air rights has become entangled in controversy, and it arrives at a time when international airfares continue to be priced at exorbitant levels since demand continues to surpass supply.
In the past few weeks, the issue that had been brewing for months has come to a head as a result of people raising concerns about the role that Qantas had in the decision-making process. Here is a rundown of how things got to this point.
In a nutshell, Qatar Airways desired to increase the number of flights it operated between its home base in Doha and other locations in Europe, as well as between Doha and Australia’s four most important airports: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.
This request was officially turned down by the Australian government in the month of July.
In its application, Qatar Airways requested permission to operate an additional 28 weekly routes to four major airports.
The request reflected an almost doubling of Qatar Airways’ existing operations, as the airline now flies 42 round-trip trips to Australia each and every week.
Each week, there are 42 flights that depart from Doha and arrive at one of the four major airports. Of these flights, 35 are nonstop flights.
This entails a total of 28 weekly round-trip flights between Doha and the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth. These flights represent the maximum number of entries that this airline is permitted to make into the four major airports.
Seven of the 42 flights are additional weekly services into Melbourne, which means that it serves the city twice each day. This is only possible because it then flies the jet on to Adelaide, which is why it is permitted to do so. Due to Australia’s aviation restrictions, it is unable to sell tickets to this route; nonetheless, by flying this leg, the service registers as servicing a non-major airport, which allows it to take advantage of a loophole that allows for more flights.
Although Qatar has already used up all of its available seats to major airports, it still has an infinite number of seats available for non-stop flights to all of Australia’s other airports.
The bilateral air agreement between Australia and Qatar restricts the country to operating no more than 28 weekly services into major airports. Additionally, the Qatari airline is able to run seven additional services each week to a large airport if it flies onto a smaller airfield, such as the one it uses for its journey between Doha and Melbourne and Adelaide.
It is still possible for Qatar to increase the number of flights it operates to Australia; however, any additional flights would have to make nonstop stops in locations such as Cairns, Darwin, and Canberra, which the airline may not find to be as profitable.
It is also possible for it to fly slightly larger planes on its existing routes in order to transport more passengers; the number of services is what is limited by the bilateral agreement, not the seats.
The manner in which nations negotiate aviation rights is comparable to the manner in which they negotiate many other types of trade treaties.
When countries enter into bilateral aviation agreements with one another, the terms of those agreements will specify either the number of flights or the number of seats that airlines from one country are permitted to fly to the other.
Additionally, Australia’s bilateral aviation agreements distinguish between capacity into the country’s four largest airports (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth) and capacity into all other airports in the country.
The majority of agreements stipulate more stringent rules for the main airports, whereas lesser airports are subject to fewer restrictions. This is done in part to incentivize international airlines to run flights to smaller cities, which will in turn enhance tourism throughout the region.
There are just two nations in the world, Qatar and Fiji, in which airlines are now operating at the absolute limit of their licences to enter major airports. The aviation green paper that was presented by the government on Thursday included a recommendation that bilateral air rights should be awarded “ahead of demand” in the majority of cases. This would ensure that there are no roadblocks to the economic and connectivity gains that may be realized.
However, a number of nations have entered into what are known as “open skies” agreements with Australia. This means that there are no restrictions on the number of flights that airlines from each nation are permitted to run to the other.
Carriers originating in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, China, and India, for instance, have a limitless capacity. Therefore, United Airlines, British Airways, Air India, or China Southern would not face the same challenges if they desired to increase the number of services they offer.
As long as there are restrictions on international airlines offering domestic services within a foreign country, Qatar Airways is unable to sell tickets to domestic passengers on its flights between Melbourne and Adelaide. These flights are operated in Australia.
A large number of organizations representing the aviation and travel industries have voiced their support for the increased capacity. Many of these organizations are eager to boost the capacity of international flights and introduce additional seat supply into the market in order to reduce airfares.
Premiers of the states have voiced their support for the flights, which are expected to stimulate economic activity and tourism. Some of the most optimistic estimations of the value of this economic impact place the worth of the additional flights at as much as one billion dollars.
The additional flights were made possible with the assistance of Qatar Airways’ partner carrier, Virgin Australia.
The current and previous heads of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have both come to the conclusion that the additional flights will put downward pressure on the prices of international airfare.
As Qantas views Qatar Airways as a potential rival, the company has been lobbying the government to prevent Qatar Airways from expanding. According to statements made by the company’s previous chief executive, Alan Joyce, granting Qatar access to the additional capacity would “distort” the local aviation industry.
The government of Australia maintains its stance that it is against Qatar Airways increasing its service. It has given eight reasons for refusing the request, which are as follows: decarbonizing the sector; the national interest; protecting local aviation jobs; the local aviation industry’s recovery after Covid; Qantas’ investment in new aircraft; Qantas’ long-term sustainability; the fact that the Qatari government owns the airline; and a potential incident in 2020 at Doha airport.
If the airline want to increase the number of flights to Australia, they are permitted to do so immediately; however, only to airports that are not considered important airports.
The five women from Australia who are at the center of a legal battle with Qatar Airways, as well as a few businesses based in Qatar, are opposed to the additional flights.
When the authorities at Doha airport in Qatar in the year 2020 grounded all flights in order to search for the mother of a newborn infant they found abandoned in a bathroom at the airport, these ladies were forced off planes at gunpoint and then subjected to involuntary, invasive physical tests. These examinations were conducted on the women after they were escorted off the planes.
Doha International Airport is controlled by a subsidiary of Qatar Airways, the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, and Qatar Airways themselves are all battling against having to compensate the ladies. As a direct consequence of this, the women have expressed their belief that the airline should “not be fit” to get additional flights to Australia.