FEBRUARY 17 2017 – 8:00AM
The new Qatar Airways flights from Doha to Canberra may include a Sydney leg to “mitigate the risk” of launching in a new market.
It’s understood a final decision won’t be made until after bilateral talks between the Qatar and Australia governments.
Qatar carriers are restricted to 21 flights a week into the major Australian ports of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Adelaide, Canberra and regional airports are exempt from the restriction.
Industry journal Aviation Week recently reported that Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said the proposed new Canberra service would include Sydney.
However, a Qatar Airways spokesman told Fairfax Media a final decision wouldn’t be made until the bilateral talks were concluded.
Federal transport minister Darren Chester said no date had been set for discussions, but the Australia government was looking to achieve a “mutually beneficial” outcome.
“Airlines of Qatar are also entitled to operate an unlimited number of services to regional Australian gateways (airports other than Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth) and Qatar Airways services to Adelaide (currently five per week) are operated under these entitlements,” he said.
In September, Mr Chester said the arrival of international flights to and from Canberra Airport marked “an exciting new era for the Canberra region”.
Aviation Week senior air transport editor Adrian Schofield said it was “only a matter of time” before Canberra hosted more international flights.
“It’s understandable that Qatar would want to minimise the risk on a Canberra flight, at least initially. It’s not a bad way to test the waters, then commit later to a dedicated service,” he said.
“They would be competing with the new Singapore Airlines service on some of the Canberra traffic.
“I would assume it would be a pretty smooth connection if it’s the same plane (Canberra-Sydney-Doha), but it would obviously not be as convenient as a direct flight.
“All of this assumes this is what they do. Things could change before they officially announce anything, but this does seem to be their thinking right now.”
The existing Sydney-Doha service uses an Airbus A380, but Qatar Airways has yet to reveal the aircraft for Canberra.
The Qatar A380 features 517 seats, with eight in first class, 48 in business and 461 economy class. Economy has a 3-4-3 configuration.
Source : Canberra Times