Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka has weighed in on the ongoing dispute about Qatar Airways’ air rights, saying allowing the carrier to put on more flights would drive airfares down.
According to Hrdlicka, international airfares are currently 50 per cent higher than they were pre-pandemic, and increasing aviation capacity between Australia and other key regions will help bring down cost of living pressures.
“Additional Qatar flights would have an immediate and tangible effect in reducing airfares between Australia and Europe, the Middle East and Africa,” said Hrdlicka in a statement.
“Qatar is in the unique position in the context of a constrained global supply of widebody aircraft, to be able to quickly make available 4 additional services per day to Australia.
“This would deliver much needed and immediate benefit to the Australian tourism industry and cost-of-living relief to the Australian travelling public, including our own customers.”
Qatar, a codeshare partner of Virgin, has been blocked from adding more flights to Australia’s major airports in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Virgin this week urged the Government to allow the extra flights, which Transport Minister Catherine King has said are “not in the national interest”.
Qantas, which has opposed expanding Qatar’s air rights and is in a codeshare partnership with rival Emirates, has said the debate is overblown, with Qantas International CEO Cam Wallace saying it “completely distorts the broader dynamics in the market at the moment”.
“We understand people always want cheaper fares but that will come in a sustainable way from the recovery that is already in full swing,” he said.
“Fifty-two international airlines have now returned to serve Australia and capacity has roughly doubled in the past year. New flights are being announced regularly but they often don’t make the headlines.
“International fares have fallen materially since the start of the calendar year and that trend is likely to continue. This is a highly competitive market that Qantas has an 18 per cent share of, so the idea that we are setting prices for the market as a whole is just false.”