The decision by quality carrier Qatar Airways to operate out of Adelaide from May 2016 is as welcome as it is perplexing. One thing is clear – travellers, mostly to Europe, will be the big winners as competition hots up. The danger is 350 extra seats a day might well force existing carriers to re evaluate Adelaide as a viable destination.
Economically depressed South Australia is already well serviced by Emirates on a daily basis plus MAS, Cathay Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines. Hardly an economic shining light, SA has the highest unemployment rate in Australia – around 8.2 per cent.
The last carrier to nose into the already saturated market and ruffle feathers was Air Asia. The Kuala Lumpur-based AirAsia X began flights to Adelaide in October 2013 using Airbus A330-300 aircraft fitted with 377 seats four times a week. The service lasted barely a year. The airline’s commercial manager was quoted at the time as saying the Kuala Lumpur-Adelaide route “unfortunately had not been profitable.” The SA Government denied rumours that it had spent $1 million luring the budget carrier.
Qantas always treated Adelaide as an international backwater and apart from a Singapore service, steered well away from providing direct links. Partner Emirates took the punt however and it seems the giant carrier has succeeded. Industry gossip suggested that the service would fly via Singapore in the quieter months – but this has not happened. The Qatar Airways daily service, using a new Airbus A350-900 (Emirates operates a rather tired looking 777) will add approximately 350 seats a day in a possible three class configuration. As part of the Oneworld Alliance, Qatar passengers can earn Qantas FF points. Just what guarantees the carrier has received from the increasingly unpopular Labor government is as usual not clear – the tourism minister has pointed out the arrangement with all carriers is confidential.
So, interesting times ahead for the SA industry – but for how long?
Written by: Ian Mcintosh