With a spectacular flyover Sydney by two Airbus A380s, the Qantas/Emirates “partnership” was officially “birthed” a week ago. Announced in July, 2012, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce claimed this was the most important deal in the 92 year history of the airline. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission gave final approval for the alliance after deciding that the deal will not lead to negative effects for passengers. It however, rejected Qantas’ argument that its international operations face a ”terminal decline” without the Emirates alliance. There are lots of pluses for Qantas passengers but I have yet to be convinced that this move will save Qantas International. I think it buys some time but I think more significant changes are needed to win customers back. Qantas has noted that there has been a sixfold increase in passengers booking to Europe compared to the same period last year.
Today, I want to unpack what it means:
- The Change
- The Positives
- The Negatives
- The Alternatives for Passengers
For many decades, Qantas planes plied the Kangaroo route from Australia to the UK. The 93 hour six hop trip in 1947 was gradually pared back to a 23 hour hop via Singapore. Since 1995, Qantas has worked with British airways to fan passengers to a range of European destinations through London Heathrow.
The world has changed dramatically since 1995 for Qantas. The airline faces stiff competition from the Middle East and Asia. The number of flights by Middle Eastern airlines to Australia continues to grow with Emirates, Etihad and Qatar all pitching for business. Good marketing, very competitive pricing, excellent on board products, well trained multi national crews and brand new planes have seen Australians shift to these new incumbents. In addition, these carriers bring in passengers from all over the world into most of the Australian entry points. Virgin Australia threw the gauntlet down by aligning itself with Etihad in 2011. The United Arab Emirates carrier has now bought just over nine per cent of the Aussie carrier.
In a series of secretive meetings Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and his Emirates counterpart Tim Clark unveiled their new partnership last year.
This partnership which takes effect from this week includes:
- The end of the BA/Qantas partnership (although as One World members, the two carriers offer reciprocal benefits to passengers including frequent flyer earning opportunities)
- Qantas now flies to Europe from Sydney and Melbourne an A380 to London via Dubai
- London bound passengers will continue from Dubai on a Qantas aircraft. For other European destinations Qantas passengers will switch to Emirates planes
- Emirates will feed customers from its Australian bound services to the Qantas domestic network just as Etihad does with Virgin Australia
- the abandonment of Singapore as a Qantas hub. Qantas will serve the city but not use it as a hub
- the ceasing of flying to continental Europe as Qantas will no longer serve Frankfurt from April 15
- the end of Qantas Adelaide to Singapore flights (April 14)
- the reduction of Qantas Perth to Singapore flights from two to one a day
- Personally, I love Emirates
- Avoiding Heathrow is a wonderful thing- Emirates offers an 16 daily flights to six different UK airports, including Birmingham, Manchester, Gatwick, Heathrow, Glasgow and Newcastle. Instead of Sydney-Singapore-London-Manchester, a trip can become: Sydney -Dubai-Manchester. This saves much time wastage, schelping and immigration at Manchester is nicer than Heathrow
- Dubai airport is nicer and easier to navigate than London Heathrow.
- Most European trips will be quicker with Qantas saying as much as five hours will be saved on most flights
- Instead of Jetstar or Qantas offering across the Tasman between Australia and NZ, I will head to Emirates which have the best trans-Tasman services (sorry Air NZ)
- Qantas is also boosting its baggage allowance for economy passengers from 23kg to 30kg to bring it into line with Emirates
- Qantas Frequent Flyer members and Emirates Skywards members can earn and redeem points on all flights on the joint network internationally. NB Emirates Skywards members can only earn miles on Qantas domestic flights that are part of an international journey with Qantas or Emirates.
- Those eligible for lounge access can get access to either airline’s lounges when flying
- Both Qantas and Emirates will recognise elite members of each others frequent flyer programs. For example: Qantas First, Business customers, Platinum One, Platinum and Gold Frequent Flyer members will have access to Emirates’ dedicated check-in counters at Dubai Airport.
- Qantas has introduced Chauffeur Drive, similar to the service already offered by Emirates where First and Business Passengers are chauffeur driven to and from the airport in a luxury vehicle
The biggest negative for Qantas is their failure to sell the partnership in a way that makes sense to the average Australian. Social media went crazy this week with complaints, protests and confusions about the deal. Many saw this as a takeover of Qantas by an Arab airline. There was a massive amount of racist dialogue about the changes. Qantas deleted many Facebook posts which had people accusing the airline of censorship.
There were fears raised by many about a stopover in Dubai:
- unmarried opposite sex couples cannot legally share a hotel room
- homosexuality is against the law
- holding hands or kissing in public and swearing are considered culturally inappropriate
- The UAE has a zero tolerance policy towards illegal drugs
- Australian travellers who are Israeli passport holders can only transit through Dubai and cannot leave the airport because the UAE is a participant in the Arab League boycott of Israel
For most travellers transiting through Dubia, none of these should impact them in any way.
Qantas also announced no food containing alcohol or pork or pork products will be served on those flights. Pork (not that I see much on board Qantas anyway) will still be served on other flights and alcohol will still be available on all Qantas international flights. Social Media went hysterical about this change ignoring the fact that many airlines do not serve any pork out of deference to both Jewish and Muslim customers. Other airlines out of Australia do not serve Pork including Qatar, Ethihad Malaysian, Royabl Brunei and Virgin Australia (to and from Abu Dhabi).
The first leg of the trip to Dubai at 14 hours is longer than the traditional 8 hour hop to Singapore.
Dubai is a hugely fun and interesting place but if you would still like a different stopover, here are some alternatives from Sydney to London. The table lists total flying times and lowest round trip prices for departure in May, 2013. Note that connection times vary significantly which will add to total journey time. Personally my pick is Cathay via Hong Kong. Great airline, great airport and great stopover destination! Plus I still get my Qantas points!
|Via||Airline||Travel Timet||First Hopt||Second Hoprn||May 2013 Price|
|Abu Dhabi||Virgin Australia/Etihad||22 hours 5 mins||14 hours 50||7 hours 25||$1908|
|Abu Dhabi||Etihad||22 hours 5 mins||14 hours 50||7 hours 25||$1968|
|Bangkok||Thai||21 hours 25 mins||9 hours 20||12 hours 5||$2248|
|Guangzhou||China Southern||23 hours||9 hours 40||13hours 20||$1647|
|Hong Kong||Cathay Pacific||22 hours 20 mins||9 hours 35||12 hours 45||$1928|
|Hong Kong:||Virgin Atlantic||22 hours 30 mins||9 hours 30||13 hours||$1823|
|Kuala Lumpar||Malaysianrn||22 hours||8.5 hours||13.5 hours||$1835|
|San Francisco||United Airlines||23 hours 45 mins||13hours 15||10hours 30||$1477|
|Los Angeles (and Auckland)||Air New Zealand||25 hours||15 hours (with stop in Auckland)||10 hours|
|Singapore||British Airways||22 hours||8 hours||14 hours||$1842|
|Singapore||Singapore Airlines||21 hours 45 mins||8 hours 20||13mins 25||$2282|