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40% lower fares? Virgin Australia & Flight Centre weigh in on Qatar Airways block

Flight Centre Travel Group CEO Graham Turner doesn’t think it makes sense for the government to stop Qatar Airways from adding more flights to Australia. 

Flight Centre Travel Group CEO Graham Turner doesn’t think it makes sense for the government to stop Qatar Airways from adding more flights to Australia. 

Speaking to The World Today, Turner said Australian demand for air travel required more flights, and there is simply no good reason to block Qatar Airways’ proposal.

“There’s no logic to it, and it is a bit of a worry because we have more demand than capacity,” he told the ABC.

“So any extra capacity that certainly for our industry is very important.” 

In July, Federal Transport Minister Catherine King vetoed Qatar Airways’ request for 21 more flights each week to Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane on top of the 28 flights it already operates. And Turner says it was “clearly not in the national interest as far as I can see”. 

“You could argue that it could have been in Qantas’s interests, it certainly wasn’t in Virgin’s interest because they have a codeshare relationship with Qatar, so I just don’t think it was an argument that held any water,” he argued.

Two-thirds back

Jane Hrdlicka, Virgin Australia CEO
Qatar Airways
Virgin Australia CEO Jane Hrdlicka.

Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka believes the government should reconsider its decision to block Qatar, saying more capacity would help bring down airfares. 

“The statistics say that two-thirds of the seats that were flying in and out of Australia pre-COVID are back and a third of those seats are not back yet. So if we get those seats back, airfares will be as low as they possibly can be,” she told RN Breakfast.

Hrdlicka suggested that extra Qatar Airways flights would help cut overseas fares by up to 40 per cent.

“I would just encourage the government to step back and say, let’s get all the facts on the table and understand what’s actually in the national interest.

Int’l fares up 50%

In a statement, Virgin Australia Chief Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Officer, Christian Bennett said “Australian consumers are paying on average 50 per cent more today for international flights than they did in 2019”.

“This is due to a lack of capacity. Denying Qatar additional flights keeps airfares between Australia and Europe unnecessarily higher than need be and denies the Australian tourism industry over $500 million in economic stimulus,” he added.

“Any suggestion that denying Qatar additional flights was designed to protect Qantas’ medium-to-long term sustainability neglects the fact that blocking Qatar damages the domestic and international competitive position of Virgin Australia in favour of Qantas.  

“Virgin Australia remains committed to finding a practical path forward with respect to additional Qatar flights so as to deliver lower international airfares to Europe and to boost both Australia’s tourism sector and trading competitiveness.”

Earlier this month, Qatar Airways Group reported a 45 per cent rise in overall revenue for 2022-23 at US$21 billion (AU$32 billion) and a net profit of US$1.21 billion (AU$1.8 billion).

Qantas credits

A Qantas B787 Dreamliner on approach to Perth Airport. Qatar Airways
A Qantas B787 Dreamliner.

On Monday, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce, Jetstar CEO Steph Tully and Qantas head of corporate affairs Andrew McGinnes fronted a Senate committee hearing into the cost of living. 

During the hearing, it was revealed that Qantas and Jetstar were holding at least $470 million in flight credits, not including the amount owed to overseas customers, the ABC reported.

Last week, Qantas Group announced a record underlying profit before tax of $2.47 billion.