Qatar Airways could soon begin operating direct flights from Doha to Sydney following the signing of a new deal between the Australian and Qatari governments.
In a statement yesterday, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said that the new agreement would prompt an immediate increase in flights between the two countries, from Doha to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
“It will allow for up to 21 flights each week, each way, for airlines of both countries to the major gateways, catering for growth in the Australia-Qatar and Australia-Europe routes,” he said.
Currently, Qatar Airways operates daily direct flights to Melbourne and Perth, a total of 14 flights each week.
It doesn’t fly directly to Sydney; Qatar Airways passengers wishing to travel to the city are given the option of booking a code-share flight with Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong instead.
Australia’s national airline Qantas does not currently fly to Doha.
Tourism and trade boost
The Australian government is selling the new deal as a way to bring more tourists into the country, capitalizing on Doha’s position as a “hub” airport for people flying between Europe and Australia.
Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb also pointed out that increased air traffic between the two countries would be good news for Australian businesses, particularly the farming sector.
In a statement, Robb said:
“Airline connectivity plays a vital role in growing Australia’s premium agricultural trade of fresh products like dairy, horticulture and meats. Qatar Airways is likely to commence a daily service between Sydney and Doha, which will allow businesses to quickly and efficiently move produce to global markets.”
Qatar and Australia are key trading partners. Australia sent more than QR1.48 billion (A$502 million) in goods to Qatar in 2013, an increase of nearly 1 percent over the previous year. Its exports to Qatar are dominated by live animals, motor vehicles, meat and wheat.
Australia also imports a significant amount of goods – primarily LNG products and fertilizer – from Qatar, with imports from the country adding up to more than QR2.1 billion (A$724 million) in 2013, up nearly 12 percent over the previous year.
In May, Australian Ambassador to the UAE Pablo Kang told Doha News that Australia and Qatar had a “growing bilateral relationship,” a statement backed up by the announcement of plans to open the country’s first embassy in Qatar.
Qatar Airways’ main competitors in the region, Emirates and Etihad, already operate flights to Sydney and several other Australian destinations.
Emirates operates flights to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, and Etihad flies to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
Truss went on to state that the new agreement would also allow Qatar Airways to operate “unlimited” services onward to other Australian destinations like Darwin and Adelaide.
It is unclear however whether they will take up this opportunity. Both Emirates and Etihad have opted to use code-share agreements to offer their passengers more destinations within Australia rather than operating the routes themselves.
Qatar Airways has not yet responded to our request for comment.