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‘Nothing unusual’ about blocking Qatar expansion, says PM

written by Jake Nelson | August 30, 2023

Victor Pody shot this Qatar Airways 777-300.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said there is “nothing unusual” about Transport Minister Catherine King’s decision to block extra flights by Qatar Airways.

In a doorstop interview, the Prime Minister implied he would not be reviewing the decision not to expand Qatar’s air rights, and echoed comments made by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce at a Senate committee hearing that Qatar did not require more frequency to increase capacity.

“Qatar can fly into Adelaide, as many planes as they like, as big as they like. They can fly in other planes, which are bigger planes, that bring in more people,” the PM said.

“There is nothing unusual about a nation-state not having access to unlimited flights wherever they like to go, whenever they like to go. Australia has exactly the same situation where Australian airlines are restricted from where they fly into. The former government made a very similar decision.”

The Prime Minister stressed that the decision belonged to Transport Minister Catherine King and that decisions like this are made “all the time”.


“For example, Singapore Airlines have wanted to campaign to fly to the West Coast of the United States for at least the last 25 years there have been applications coming in. There is nothing unusual about this at all,” he said.

“This is just something that occurs on a regular basis. It certainly occurred on a regular basis when I was the Transport Minister. One of the things that I tried to do was to get an open skies agreement with the European Union, and we weren’t successful in doing it.

“Because of that, there are significant restrictions on Australian airlines flying into Europe, like there are restrictions on Australian airlines flying into Fiji, or Indonesia, or other countries as well. These are agreements between countries, not with airlines.”

In an earlier interview on Monday, the Transport Minister said she “would not have used the same words” as Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones, who appeared to indicate the decision had been made to protect Qantas’s sustainability.

“As I’ve repeatedly said, this was a decision that was taken in the national interest, and there’s no one factor that swayed my consideration one way or the other,” she said.

“But really, what I would say when it comes to Qantas, there is no doubt that they need to do better. I said that in opposition. I have said that repeatedly in government. They have let a lot of consumers down. People are very angry about the way in which services have been operating and they need to do better.”

Virgin Australia, a codeshare partner of Qatar, has repeatedly criticised the decision, with the carrier’s chief corporate affairs & sustainability officer, Christian Bennett, saying in a statement this week that allowing extra Qatar flights would bring down airfares while blocking them advantaged the Flying Kangaroo at Virgin’s expense.

“Any suggestion that denying Qatar additional flights was designed to protect Qantas’ medium-to-long-term sustainability neglects the fact that blocking Qatar damages the domestic and international competitive position of Virgin Australia in favour of Qantas.

“Virgin Australia delivers great value and great choice to Australian consumers every day. It is the main source of competition to the Qantas Group, and that task is challenging enough without Qantas having public policy designed for its benefit.”

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Comment (1)

  • Cameron Sangster


    Can everyone get over this. Qatar – great airline, yes. Great poachers of staff – yes. What do you want?

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