Qatar Airways plans to upgauge its new Doha-Sydney route to the Airbus A380 from June.
The A380 will be used to Sydney on a seasonal basis, just four months after starting the airline’s newest Australian route, Qatar chief executive Akbar Al Baker said during a media conference on Thursday.
The airline’s inaugural flight to Sydney, QR908, landed at Mascot on Wednesday evening, with the Boeing 777-300ER A7-BAO receiving an ARFF monitor cross after touching down just after 1800 local time. The aircraft also flew over Sydney Harbour en route to Mascot.
Photographer Seth Jaworski captured the aircraft as it headed into Sydney.
The aircraft was on the ground for about four hours before taking off as the reciprocal QR909 back to Doha at about 2245.
Al Baker says the start of flights to Sydney has been a long-held ambition for Qatar and was made possible by the recently updated bilateral air services agreement between Australia and Qatar that opened up additional capacity for carriers of both countries.
Further, he said it was also facilitated as well the expansion of a third arrival and departure bank in Qatar’s schedule at its Doha hub to facilitate quick connections.
“In the third bank we are able to take the aeroplane out of Sydney before the curfew time,” Al Baker said.
“The reason it fell out of our radar six years ago is because … we had only two banks and we could not really afford to leave our aircraft on the ground during the curfew time.
“If you took the aircraft immediately back we wouldn’t give the seamless connection, the short minimum connecting time that today we can provide the passengers from Sydney.”
“This is why we not came six years later.”
Currently, Qatar serves three Australian points – Melbourne, Perth and Sydney – with Adelaide to join the network from May with Airbus A350-900.
And while the airline has no partnerships or codeshares with local carriers for onward connections beyond its Australian gateways, Qatar does have interline connections with Qantas given both are members of the oneworld airline marketing alliance.
Al Baker said Qatar was looking at adding a fifth Australian point. Although no city was mentioned during Thursday’s media conference, the chief executive said any further expansion would likely require another increase in available capacity in the bilateral agreement, suggesting Brisbane would be next to receive service from Qatar.
“If you want to go to a fifth destination in Australia then we will need to ask for additional bilateral,” Al Baker said.
“And the current Australian government is very receptive to giving additional traffic rights to promote tourism and business in Australia.”
Al Baker also confirmed nonstop flights to New Zealand would begin before the end of the year, adding that the original plans to launch the Doha-Auckland route had been pushed back after fellow Gulf carrier Emirates started flying nonstop to Auckland from Dubai.
“We are not going to chicken out, we will definitely fly to Auckland but as a respect to Emirates as they have already launched a direct flight we will wait until the end of the year before we will operate,” Al Baker said.
“We were originally supposed to operate in June but we are now delaying it until the end of the year but we will certainly go direct from our hub in Doha to Auckland.”