Emirates has handed the federal government a boost in its ongoing row over Qatar Airways capacity by announcing it is set to switch its 777s for larger A380s on all Sydney services.
Last month, Transport Minister Catherine King justified denying Qatar the right to fly more services into Australia by suggesting it could simply switch to bigger aircraft to increase its capacity, a move now undertaken by Emirates.
The decision to deny Qatar extra services has drawn criticism from the federal opposition as well as Virgin, which have both argued that it would benefit rival Qantas while also keeping airfares high.
Emirates is crucially a close codeshare partner of Qantas, and the pair have an ACCC-approved deal to collaborate on services.
On Tuesday, Emirates said it would add almost 2,000 seats per week between Sydney and Dubai. Starting on 4 November, the daily EK416 and EK417 services from Sydney to Dubai, which are currently serviced by Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, will be switched to A380s to match the other two daily services, adding more than 260 seats per day.
Emirates also used the announcement to suggest it is not the case that adding extra capacity would automatically lead to lower prices for travellers – seemingly referencing the row of Qatar flights.
In a press release, Barry Brown, Emirates’ divisional VP for Australasia, said that capacity is “only one of several factors” that affect ticket prices.
“Similar to many other sectors, across the aviation industry, our highest operating expenses have surged. There has been a sharp rise in fuel, ground handling, catering, and workforce costs as we try to attract and retain the right talent,” he said.
“Even as more capacity comes back into Australia, airlines, especially those with long-haul services, will continue to face challenges in striking a balance to offset these costs where possible.
“Despite these challenges, we’re committed to strengthening our schedules as much as we can and offering the essential connectivity that Australian travellers have come to know and expect of us.”
The carrier has also indicated plans to resume nonstop services to Adelaide once its A350 fleet enters service next year.
Emirates currently operates 63 weekly Australia services, including flights three times per day to Sydney and Melbourne, twice per day to Brisbane, and daily to Perth. It also flies between Melbourne and Singapore and from Dubai to Christchurch via Sydney.
The row over Qatar flights began in July when it was first revealed the carrier was knocked back from adding extra flights to destinations like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
Qantas agreed with the move, arguing more Qatar flights would cost Australian jobs.
However, the move led to a wide range of industry voices sharing their opinion.
Qatar codeshare partner Virgin described the decision as “deeply regrettable and a source of deep disappointment”, while the federal opposition accused the Albanese government of “running a protection racket” for Qantas.
Minister King said in response that “no one factor” led to the decision, but it was in the “national interest”.