Qatar Airways will not be allowed to increase its daily flights to Australia, with the federal government not considering additional bilateral air rights with its parent country.
The Middle Eastern carrier had planned to operate extra flights to destinations like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Federal Transport Minister Catherine King, however, has knocked back expanding Qatar’s air rights.
The Minister’s office declined to comment beyond confirming that expanded air rights for the Qatari national carrier are off the table. Opposition tourism spokesman Kevin Hogan told The Australian Financial Review that the decision would be bad for travellers.
“I strongly support competition in the sector and more slots for airlines like Qatar would be beneficial to our slow recovery in international tourism,” he said.
As noted in The Australian, Qantas – a partner of Qatar Airways in the Oneworld alliance – nevertheless opposed the flag carrier’s push for more capacity, saying it would cost Australian jobs.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker last year claimed Qantas management was putting shareholders ahead of customers by trying to block the airline from adding more flights to Australia.
Talking to Sky News Business Weekend, Al Baker said the Flying Kangaroo was “doubling the price of fares to the Australian people” while his airline took on losses to continue to fly during COVID-19.
During the pandemic, Qatar briefly became the world’s largest global carrier and even increased capacity into Australia in March 2020 as Qantas and Virgin stopped commercial international flights.
The decision by the Minister additionally comes as Qatar Airways faces down a lawsuit in the Federal Court brought by a group of five women relating to an incident at Doha Airport three years ago.
In October 2020, 13 Australian women on board a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Sydney were asked to leave their aircraft before being escorted to ambulances for genital checks, supposedly carried out as staff tried to find the mother of a baby abandoned at the airport.
Many of them now claim to have been left traumatised and received no personal apology or compensation.
The case is being brought against both the airline and the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA), which is overseen by the state of Qatar itself, as well as the Qatar Company for Airports Operation and Management (MATAR).
Four of the five claimants were personally subjected to the invasive checks, while a fifth was ordered off the aircraft by armed staff despite being 73 at the time and legally blind.