Transport minister denies blocking Qatar Airways further access is related to invasive searches case

Transport minister denies blocking Qatar Airways further access is related to invasive searches case
Edited by Travel Weekly

    The Federal Transport Minister Catherine King said her decision to block Qatar Airways’ request for more flights was not due to the forced examination of Australian women at Doha Airport.

    King, with input from Qantas, opposed Qatar Airways’ request to add 21 flights per week into hubs such as Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth from the Middle East. Qantas opposed the bid on the grounds that it would cause Australian job losses, according to The Australian.

    The group of Australian women also oppose Qatar’s proposal due to invasive searches at Doha Airport they were subjected to in 2020, which the airline is currently defending itself against in a Federal Court case.

    The women were among a group of passengers ordered off ten international flights as authorities looked for the mother of a new-born 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.

    King wrote a letter to these women earlier this month explaining that she will not be granting Qatar Airways extra landing rights. She has not publicly explained her decision.

    “We don’t wish to progress further bilateral flight arrangements with Qatar,” King said.

    “I wouldn’t link the decision not to continue to engage with Qatar.

    I’m sure Qatar will continue to come to Australia and continue to ask for air rights, and we don’t want to consider that at the moment.

    “And so I’m sure they’ll continue to prosecute that case; we’ll continue at this stage to say we’re not planning to change that view.”

    When asked whether her decision would give Qantas an unfair advantage with international airfares currently outstripping demand, King said that was an “unfair characterisation,” according to the Brisbane Times.

    “I think it’s incumbent on Qantas to understand its role and position it plays in the Australian market,” she said.

    On the decision, Nationals MP and opposition spokesman on tourism, Kevin Hogan, told the Australian Financial Review that he was disappointed.

    “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.

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