Australia has signed a new bilateral air services agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), boosting the number of seats that Emirates and Etihad can fly to major Australian airports from next October.
It also works for Australian airlines flying in the other direction and aviation analysts were tipping at the weekend that it might push down airfares.
Australia’s Minister for Tourism and International Education, Richard Colbeck, described the new deal as “fantastic news for our tourism industry”.
“Air services are a vital component for increasing Australia’s tourism, education, trade and investment connectivity,” Colbeck said.
“The UAE is an important and increasingly significant aviation hub for Australian tourism and trade.”
The move will spur increased rivalry from Qatar Airways, which plans to double the number of flights to and from Australia by May 2016, launching new services from its Doha hub to Sydney and Adelaide. Qatar and the UAE are longstanding rivals.
The new Australia/UAE bilateral sees Australian airlines receive an extra 14 flight slots in return to the UAE, bringing the total to 56.
“The Australian government is committed to supporting the entry of Australian airlines into foreign markets and ensuring we have the aviation capacity necessary to meet future demand,” Australia’s acting prime minister Warren Truss commented.
Qantas Airways can use the new deal in its commercial partnership with Emirates. Virgin Australia, which launched flights to Abu Dhabi in 2011, received draft approval to renew its alliance with Etihad from the ACCC last month.
Emirates now carries more than 25% of the traffic between Australia and Europe, followed by Qantas with about 15% and Singapore Airlines with just under 15%, UAE’s The Nation newspaper pointed out.
The increased gateway capacity announced at the weekend supplements existing open access arrangements in place for regional Australia.
UAE airlines already have the right to offer unlimited services to other Australian destinations, including Darwin, Cairns, Adelaide and the Gold Coast.
Senator Colbeck pointed out that while the UAE is an important and growing trading partner for Australia, “Australia’s relationship with the Gulf region is built on substantial people-to-people linkages – with over 20,000 Australians living and working in the UAE and Qatar the government will ensure this relationship continues to grow.”
Written by Peter Needham