The ACCC has said Qantas’s decision to expand its wet lease agreement with Alliance is partly behind a fourth delay to it revealing whether it will allow the Flying Kangaroo to purchase the FIFO operator.
The review, which was due to be released this month after being pushed back from November last year, will now be handed down on 20 April.
According to an ACCC spokesperson, the fresh delay also relates to news that Alliance would purchase an extra 30 Embraer E190 aircraft to be delivered between September 2023 and January 2026.
“Due to recent announcements by Qantas and Alliance about key developments regarding their existing wet-lease agreement, and fleet expansions by Alliance, the ACCC requires more time to gather and consider further information from the parties to assess the implications of these developments for the ACCC’s assessment of the proposed acquisition,” the spokesperson told Australian Aviation.
In a statement last October following the deferral of the ACCC’s decision to March 2023, Qantas criticised the competition watchdog for “one of the longest processes for informal clearance in recent times”.
“Qantas has been clear about its intention to fully acquire Alliance since it took a 19 per cent stake in the charter services operator in February 2019. The ACCC took three years to investigate that minority holding and made no findings that it lessened competition. The Commission has also had the benefit of over two years of closely monitoring the domestic aviation industry,” the airline said.
“Qantas is a firm believer in regulation and due process, and has cooperated fully with information requests from the ACCC, but also believes such regulation needs to be timely and efficient to maintain confidence in the process.”
Alliance is an aviation services company based in Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns and Perth. It specialises in private charter flight services to corporate customers (such as flights for workers to mines in remote areas) as well as some regional services available to the public.
Significantly, Alliance holds a wet lease agreement with Virgin to use its smaller aircraft fleet for charter and FIFO operations.
The ACCC has raised concerns, therefore, that Qantas could either stop that deal or increase the price, hurting competition.
This could potentially affect the routes of Brisbane-Emerald, Brisbane-Mt Isa, Brisbane-Alice Springs, Brisbane-Rockhampton, Brisbane-Newcastle and Brisbane-Gladstone.
Alliance has been contacted for comment.