Qantas has just announced that it’s ending its long standing alliance with British Airways (and Cathay Pacific and Air France), and shacking up with aviation powerhouse Emirates to reroute its MEL/SYD-LHR services through Dubai.
But what does that actually mean for you, the traveller who probably never flew Qantas to Europe anyway? And is it a smart move or just the desperate flailing of a company that recently announced a full year loss of $244 million, and continues to bleed money from its international routes?
I’m coming down on the side of smart move. Or at least potentially smart move, if they do it correctly.
When I first heard the announcement my initial thoughts were entirely selfish. I fly to London from time to time and I’m pretty keen about having another option to earn and use Qantas frequent flyer points on the MEL-LHR route, while travelling with a carrier that isn’t Qantas.
I’ve long been of the opinion that Singapore is a terrible stop when travelling from Australia to Europe; you land in Singapore already feeling terrible after eight hours of flying, then you get back on the plane for another 13 hours. Awful. Going through Dubai gets the long leg out of the way first on the outbound trip, which I personally think is superior.
Plus, Emirates has a truly excellent network of flights connecting Dubai with Europe and the rest of the Middle East. It is the largest international carrier, and this deal opens up that extensive network for Qantas customers.
And should you wish to fly with BA or Cathay it’s not like you’re missing out on delicious Qantas frequent flyer points – both are One World partners while Emirates is not, and has no intention of becoming one. It’s also a good countermeasure to combat Virgin’s partnership with Etihad.
So this does expand choice for Australians flying to Europe. But Europe isn’t really what this announcement is about.
I’ve seen a number of people ask what the point of this realignment is; Qantas partnering with Emirates and routing through Dubai isn’t likely to make them fly Qantas, and chances are they were already likely to fly Emirates.
As it turns out, Alan Joyce has actually told us the point, and it’s reinforced on an FAQ sheet that Qantas has provided:
Previously our services to Singapore and Hong Kong were timed to optimise travel through to Europe. We will retime our existing services to Singapore and Hong Kong offering an improved schedule dedicated to better meet the needs of the Asia market.
This is actually about Asia. And that is smart.
Currently, services to Singapore and Hong Kong still feel a little like an afterthought for Qantas: there’s a real sense that Asia is a place to stop over before continuing on to Europe. But that’s not really how Australians do business any more.
Shifting the stopover to Dubai for Qantas’ Europe operations frees up Singapore and Hong Kong to act as final destinations, rather than stops that must coordinate with flights to London. There’s great potential for Qantas to fix its scheduling to Singapore and Hong Kong, and try to aim for some of the business traveller market currently being serviced by Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
If this is in fact the strategy, it fits with Qantas’ ambitions for Jetstar. Jetstar has been espousing a business model focused on transporting Australian tourists to various destinations within Asia for some time now, and if it’s good for Jetstar, there’s an argument to be made that big sister Qantas would do well with a similar strategy focusing on business travellers.
Of course, the success of this strategy will depend very much on Qantas’ ability to win business travellers to Asia back from Singapore and Cathay–a tough ask; both carriers are highly competitive and very well regarded.
So I’m pro this announcement. Ultimately, Qantas has to do something about its poor international performance – this is a bold move, but one that has the potential to pay off for both Qantas and customers in the end.
Image by Neerav Bhatt via Creative Commons Licence