The minster for transport and infrastructure, Catherine King, has blocked an application from Qatar Airways for more Australian capacity following opposition from Qantas.
Qatar was looking to add 21 flights per week into hubs such as Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth from the Middle East.
The Federal Government sought out the opinion of Qantas as part of Qatar Airways’ application process for bilateral air rights. Qantas opposed the bid on the grounds that it would cause Australian job losses, according to The Australian.
Qatar Airways’ application rejection comes amid high international airfares, which some attribute to a lack of competition.
Nationals MP and opposition spokesman on tourism, Kevin Hogan, told the Australian Financial Review that he was disappointed with the decision.
“I strongly support competition in the sector and more slots for airlines like Qatar would be beneficial to our slow recovery in international tourism,” Hogan said.
Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al-Baker, was also amongst those criticising Qantas’ influence here. He highlighted that his airline continued to operate flights throughout the pandemic, even when Qantas suspended all flights except government-subsidised repatriation flights.
The decision came as the Middle Eastern airline defends itself against a Federal Court case bought forward by five women, who wrote to King, claiming to be subjected to invasive personal examinations at Doha’s Hamad International Airport in 2020.
The women were among a group of passengers ordered off ten international flights as authorities looked for the mother of a newborn baby that was put in a bin at the airport.
Some of the women, aged between 33 and 75, had young children accompanying them and they were forced off the plane at gunpoint into vans where they were taken for gynaecological examinations.
These women urged King to consider Qatar Airways’ “insensitive and irresponsible treatment of us and its failure to ensure the safety and dignity of its passengers.”
A report was given to the Australian government by Qatar and the airline said earlier this year that it will defend its name on the basis that the incident was part of a criminal investigation by Qatari police, which the airline had no control over.
Travel Weekly awaits comment from Qantas and Qatar Airways regarding the decision.
Featured Image: QATAR Airways plane arriving late afternoon at Kingsford Smith airport, with the city Skyline in the background (iStock/Boeing746)