What’s been said at today’s Senate hearing into Commonwealth Bilateral Air Service Agreements

An aerial view of Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney.

A range of stakeholders have fronted the Senate Select Committee’s hearing that is looking into the Commonwealth’s Bilateral Air Service agreements.

The hearing has stemmed from the blocking of Qatar’s request for more routes into Australia, but is covering a range of issues, such as ‘slot hoarding’.

Here are our highlights from the mornings hearing:

Qatar defends absence of CEO, says ‘strip-search’ will never be repeated

Qatar Airways chief executive officer, Akbar Al-Baker was asked to face the senate on Wednesday morning, however was unable to attend.

Matt Raos, senior vice president of sales, Qatar, defended Al-Baker’s absence, highlighting the request for his attendance was on short notice, less than two weeks ago.

“I think, as you would well understand,” Raos, said.

“The chief executive officer of a global airline accounts with multiple stakeholders across the world.

“The diary of a chief executive officer is filled many weeks, if not many months in advance.”

Raos also commented on the strip searching of four Australian women who were pulled off a Qatar flight at Qatar’s Hamad International Airport.

“We see this as a one-off isolated issue, and we’re committed to ensuring it does not happen again.”

“Let me provide assurance we have had nothing like that very extreme incident previously in our history, and we’re completely committed to ensuring nothing like this ever happens again,” Raos said.

Matt Raos speaking at the hearing.

Qatar questions outcomes for Australian aviation following blocked application for more routes

Matt Raos also commented on the outcomes of Qatar not being approved to service more routes into Australia, saying it adversely impacts Virgin – of which it holds a codeshare deal with.

“We’re not challenging the reasons for the decision,” he said.

“But we challenge the outcome because the effect of the outcome is to restrain us when our key competitor in this route, please not restrict the benefit of that flows to one of Australia’s airlines, but not to both.

“And we feel that our partner Virgin Australia is also restrained by this decision, so we’re challenging the outcome.”

Australian Airport Association calls for more flights in and out of Australia

James Goodwin, the chief executive of the Australian Airport Association was critical of the recent blocking, and believes that Australia must do more to support new carriers who wish to fly to the nation.   

“We should but putting the red carpet out for any carrier that wants to fly into and out of Australia,” Goodwin, said. 

Australia is a long way away from the rest of the world and it makes sense to have as many open carriers, open skies to be able to get more carriers into and out of Australia.

“Its good for Australians wanting to visit family and friends, its good for inbound tourism and its also good for freight exports as well.”

Bonza says Australian Aviation duopoly makes low cost domestic near impossible

Bonza’s CEO, Tim Jordan said that although the airline has not formally applied for slots at Sydney airport, it has had the relevant conversations with the airport where it was ‘made clear’ that operation would not be sustainable for the carrier.

“We could fly in the middle of the day,” he said, which for an airline looking to carry as many passengers as possible at a low cost during peak times, is not financially viable.

Jordan was also asked if he believes there is a bias in the Australian aviation industry.

“I think in any industry where this is such dominant player, where there is a duopoly, I think yes, it raises the barriers to entry, certainly

“When you look into aviation, it is a very difficult industry to make work here in Australia and part of that reason why it has ben hard for predecessor’s to Bonza is because of the dominance and concentration of the in the aviation sector.”

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