Qantas on Thursday launched its first flight between Canberra and the Sunshine Coast weeks after smaller rival Alliance became the first airline to service the unusual route.
The 717-2BL, VH-YQV msn 55193, departed Canberra at 3:03pm as flight QF1598 and landed in the Sunshine Coast at 3:38pm local time.
The seemingly aggressive move to challenge smaller players comes after Alan Joyce told investors the airline’s market share will increase by 10 per cent post-COVID, in part driven Virgin’s scaled-back strategy.
“We’ve taken a fresh look at our network, creating new direct services, which were previously only available by connecting via another city, saving customers up to two hours travel time,” said Qantas in a statement.
“These flights are great news for travellers who will now have more direct flights between Canberra and Cairns, Noosa and Hobart. It will also mean we can get more of our people back to work.”
The flights will be operated by QantasLink’s 717s featuring 12 business seats and 98 in economy.
Alliance only launched the route to the Sunshine Coast on 23 October and came after the announcement that Queensland would open its border to the ACT.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said at the time he was glad that “common sense has prevailed” so that Canberrans can now visit family and friends in Queensland.
Canberra Airport chief executive Stephen Byron said, “We are so pleased to be partnering with Alliance Airlines who will offer great value fares, provide Canberrans with access to a fantastic holiday destination and people from the Sunshine Coast an opportunity to experience all our region has to offer, as well as stimulating jobs and growing the air travel market which is a win-win for us all.”
The news came on the same day Qantas and APAC hospitality group Accor announced a partnership with their loyalty schemes. The collaboration applies for hotel stays across Asia-Pacific and Qantas’ domestic and international flights.
Earlier on Wednesday, Australian Aviation reported how the ACCC granted interim authorisation for Virgin and Alliance to collaborate on 41 regional routes despite strong opposition from Rex.
Australia’s competition commission said sharing capacity and pricing information would result in a “public benefit” by helping Virgin to re-establish its network as borders open.
Two weeks ago, Virgin applied to the ACCC to share information on cost, capacity, and flight schedules with Alliance in order to help serve smaller towns with its post-administration, stripped back fleet.
It also said ceding market share to Qantas could result in more expensive fares for passengers.
In its initial ruling published on Thursday, the ACCC said, “The co-operation will allow Virgin Australia and Alliance Airlines to share information, and to agree on service capacity, schedules and potentially revenue sharing on the routes on which they operate, including for new routes not currently serviced by either airline.
“The co-operation will mean that Virgin Australia and Alliance Airlines will not compete with each other on the routes covered by the agreement.
The decision is likely to anger Rex, which said the ‘temporary’ authorisation would cause irreversible, long-term damage to competition.
The regional airline also warned its two rivals could give each other “highly-sensitive” cost and pricing information “without any transparency or monitoring”.
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