Qatar Airways’ Domestic Australia “Ghost” Flights

Qatar Airways’ Domestic Australia “Ghost” Flights

42

Qatar Airways is operating some (more or less) empty flights within Australia, and it kind of gets at the absurdity of some international air services agreements.

Qatar Airways wants to grow in Australia, but can’t

Australia is a huge market for the Gulf carriers, given the number of people looking to travel between Australia and Europe (and beyond). Gulf carriers are always wanting to grow there, but are typically restricted by the bilateral air services agreements in place.

The current air services agreement between Qatar and Australia allows Qatar Airways to operate a total of 28 weekly flights from Doha to Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney (in other words, once daily service in each market). The restrictions don’t apply to flights to other Australian airports, like Adelaide and Canberra.

Admittedly this is a pretty one-sided agreement, since no Australia airlines want to fly to Qatar (but that doesn’t mean Qatari airlines shouldn’t be allowed to fly to Australia).

Qatar and Australia are currently renegotiating their air services agreement, and not surprisingly, Qantas is trying to block Qatar Airways’ growth in Australia. Executives at Qantas are arguing that Qatar Airways growing in Australia would be unfair, as a non-government owned carrier can’t compete, especially post-coronavirus. As usual, Qantas executives are rather self-serving here — they’ve never made such an argument about partner Emirates.

So while negotiations are ongoing, Qatar Airways has found a creative way to grow in the above Australian markets without technically violating rules, as noted by Australian Frequent Flyer. Unfortunately it involves operating some empty flights.

Qatar Airways wants to grow in Australia

How Qatar Airways is circumventing Australia’s restrictions

As mentioned above, Qatar Airways is maxed out with its service to Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney, as the airline is already operating once daily service to each airport.

This is where a loophole comes into play. Qatar Airways is allowed to add flights to other destinations in Australia, including Adelaide and Canberra, as the air services agreement doesn’t restrict that in the same way.

Furthermore, Qatar Airways is allowed to have those flights route through other airports without violating the agreement. So in addition to operating a nonstop Doha to Adelaide flight, Qatar Airways is also operating a one-stop Doha to Adelaide flight… via Melbourne. Passengers can book this flight exclusively between Doha and Melbourne if they’d like.

Obviously Qatar Airways’ primary focus is serving the Doha to Melbourne market, as this essentially allows for a second daily flight. Heck, in the eastbound direction the flight is timed so that you wouldn’t even want to take this flight if you were traveling to Adelaide. Here’s the current schedule:

QR988 Doha to Melbourne departing 1:45AM arriving 11:20PM
QR988 Melbourne to Adelaide departing 10:45AM arriving 11:40AM

QR989 Adelaide to Melbourne departing 12:55PM arriving 2:45PM
QR989 Melbourne to Doha departing 4:15PM arriving 10:40PM

No one in their right mind traveling to Adelaide is going to book an itinerary that has a nearly 12-hour layover in Melbourne. Also keep in mind that since this is a wholly domestic flight, Qatar Airways can’t exclusively sell seats on the sector between Adelaide and Melbourne.

In other words, you can expect that flight between Melbourne and Adelaide to basically be empty, and to exist solely to be able to service the Doha to Melbourne market:

  • On the one hand, it’s highly wasteful to operate a totally empty flight, just to be able to add service to a market you actually want to fly to
  • On the other hand, this seems to technically be allowed based on the existing air services agreement, so maybe future agreements should be negotiated in a way so that these loopholes don’t exist
Qatar Airways found a way to circumvent Australia’s restrictions

Bottom line

Qatar Airways is getting creative with adding service in Australia. The airline is technically maxed out on how many flights it can operate to Australia’s four largest airports, so the airline is now adding service to Adelaide with a stop in Melbourne. This is a way for Qatar Airways to essentially double service to Melbourne without violating the air services agreement.

What do you make of Qatar Airways’ Australia strategy?

Conversations (42)
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  1. Spence blogs Guest Guest

    Why would anyone want a 12 hour layover in Melbourne to go to Adelaide of wherever, Just wasteful to operate a totally empty flight.

  2. Tony Guest

    @Jane blogs: during the pandemic, Qantas also operated many repatriation flights and international freight services. The govt assisted with funding for international freight flights (for Qantas and other airlines such as Qatar) to keep the Australian export market alive.

  3. Brunetta Celofiga Guest

    I was flying with different airlines to Europe, so far Qatar is the best airline. Great service , great food and plenty of leg room.I will never fly with Qantas again. Next best is Singapore airlines.

  4. Chris Guest

    We have flown with QATAR from Canberra to Europe, via Sydney and Doha, a couple of times. The service was excellent, absolutely everything was the best we have experienced in forty years of flying to Europe. In September we flew with QANTAS from LAX to MLB, business class; tired and grumpy cabin crew, and mediocre breakfast - very disappointing.

  5. Eydie Visser Guest

    I will never fly with QATAR again. I have paid comfort class seats which I did not get.
    Never pay for your seats.
    Check tripadvisor.
    They are not the best in the world.

    Eydie Visser

    1. Ralph Guest

      They qre one of the best. I always satisfied with them.

  6. Jake from MSP Guest

    Environment be damned

  7. Mahendra bahadur karki Guest

    Congratulations & good luck QR grow up businesses

  8. Mahendra bahadur karki Guest

    Good luck both countries Grow up business .I think passenger all so happy QR flight has great flight .people are chose QR flight good because good communication crew members Respect all passengers all the facilities Awesome .

  9. Ted Franke Guest

    Having flown to Aus more than 100 times combined with my wife, Qantas was our favourite by a country mile. Now because of its poor service, we have to be really cornered to end up flying Qantas. Anything but actually. So that opens the door wide open to all competition. Qantas should improve to keep on top. I believe the best should win. Even if the competition was subsidised, that does not influence staff behaviour....

    Having flown to Aus more than 100 times combined with my wife, Qantas was our favourite by a country mile. Now because of its poor service, we have to be really cornered to end up flying Qantas. Anything but actually. So that opens the door wide open to all competition. Qantas should improve to keep on top. I believe the best should win. Even if the competition was subsidised, that does not influence staff behaviour. Qantas cabin crew don’t have the enthusiasm of others anymore.

  10. Julian Guest

    During Covid, Qatar Airways provided seamless services to Australia; brought essential vaccines and other health care stuff including masks when all other airlines reduced their services near to zero. And Emirats - disappeared. Australia need to recognise Qatar's contributions at the time of need. That is why Qatar was top airlines in 2021 and 2022.

    1. Brunetta Celofiga Guest

      Yes , agree. Qatar is no 1 airline for me .

  11. Brianair Guest

    Qatar human rights violations.

    1. David Guest

      And you think Emirates and all the Chinese airlines are much better

  12. Peter Ehrler Guest

    I can only congratulate QATAR for pushing QANTAS. I hope they will succeed in opening up the market

  13. Jane blogs Guest

    I imagine their strategy is of course about increasing routes. And whilst Qatar is not my airline of choice & nor is Doha my destination of choice, unlike QAntas, Qatar & several foreign airlines supported Australia very heavily during the pandemic. They carried our freight & our citizens trying to get home. Where was Qantas at that time - nowhere, In the desert serving their shareholders not their customers or staff. Australia is an island...

    I imagine their strategy is of course about increasing routes. And whilst Qatar is not my airline of choice & nor is Doha my destination of choice, unlike QAntas, Qatar & several foreign airlines supported Australia very heavily during the pandemic. They carried our freight & our citizens trying to get home. Where was Qantas at that time - nowhere, In the desert serving their shareholders not their customers or staff. Australia is an island with massive amounts of our day to day goods being imported. Qatar, Emirates & some Asian airlines were there for us during the pandemic so I think the govt should factor that into any negotiations. The days of Qantas having a free market are long gone!

  14. bil Guest

    Would it be possible to shortcheck bags to MEL on a flight like this if you're flying XXX-DOH-MEL-ADL?

    1. Mike C Diamond

      There's no need, you can book DOH-MEL on the flight. If you are actually going to ADL, you probably could short check and clear immigration in MEL then recheck your bag and fly to ADL as a domestic passenger. (They can't sell the domestic sector but you can fly it as domestic if it's on an international ticket.)

  15. Pierre Gold

    It fits perfectly with the ludicrous yellow Teddy Bear on Death Row with the electric chair hat in Doha airport, and also with the equally ludicrous "arrangement" admitting Israeli passports and passenger flights via Cyprus during the World Cup.

    This would be a perfectly good opportunity for some cold humor as only Israelis can deliver, i.e tell Qatar Airways that if and when relations improve (*), the QR flights to Tel Aviv will need...

    It fits perfectly with the ludicrous yellow Teddy Bear on Death Row with the electric chair hat in Doha airport, and also with the equally ludicrous "arrangement" admitting Israeli passports and passenger flights via Cyprus during the World Cup.

    This would be a perfectly good opportunity for some cold humor as only Israelis can deliver, i.e tell Qatar Airways that if and when relations improve (*), the QR flights to Tel Aviv will need to stop in Amman (or Cyprus) on the way.

    (*) and they WILL improve, as Qatar will not let its rivals (UAE, Bahrein, Oman, soon KSA, etc...) reap alone the fruits of cooperation with Israel for a long time.

  16. John Guest

    I live in Australia on the Gold Coast which is about 60 miles or 100 kilometres from Brisbane International airport which Qatar started serving during the pandemic and has continued to service. The Gold Coast has its own international airport and currently has 787's operating international flights in and out of it and in the past has had 777's using it.

    I would think it would be a good choice for Qatar to fly...

    I live in Australia on the Gold Coast which is about 60 miles or 100 kilometres from Brisbane International airport which Qatar started serving during the pandemic and has continued to service. The Gold Coast has its own international airport and currently has 787's operating international flights in and out of it and in the past has had 777's using it.

    I would think it would be a good choice for Qatar to fly here as I am sure that there would be a decent load factor wanting to fly out of the Gold Coast to Doha and onto Europe plus I think people on the southern edges of Brisbane would find it pretty convenient to use the Gold Coast airport.

  17. Pip Guest

    Looking forward to your review of those flights.

    You know you want to.

  18. crosscourt Guest

    al Baker of Qatar is just trying to stir the pot as he so often does. why do they domestic flights in australia when they have an agreement with virgin australia now? as to the person questioning why qantas hasn't protested about emirates, to the best of my knowledge emirates haven't carried on about domestic flights.

    1. Mike C Diamond

      A couple of reversed cause and effect arguments here.
      1. QR doesn't want to fly domestic sectors, they want extra MEL flights but aren't allowed. They can fly from ADL, and by adding this sector they are flying an extra MEL flight under the fiction that it's an ADL flight.
      2. Emirates doesn't need to do this because they can fly where they want as often as they want, and QF doesn't object.

      A couple of reversed cause and effect arguments here.
      1. QR doesn't want to fly domestic sectors, they want extra MEL flights but aren't allowed. They can fly from ADL, and by adding this sector they are flying an extra MEL flight under the fiction that it's an ADL flight.
      2. Emirates doesn't need to do this because they can fly where they want as often as they want, and QF doesn't object.
      The common factor in both cases is QF's obstruction of one and encouragement of the other.

  19. XPL Diamond

    "On the one hand, it’s highly wasteful to operate a totally empty flight, just to be able to add service to a market you actually want to fly to"

    That's what happens with overregulation. The solution is to ease the regulations, not make them worse.

  20. Ira N. Guest

    So I can't use a plastic bag anymore for my groceries but they can fly an empty 777?!
    Where is the outcry from all the environmentalists?

  21. Bob Guest

    Didn’t we (the US) do this to Qantas back in the day with QF107/108 JFK-LAX? I remember flying it from JFK only because I was going onward to SYD. And it was empty.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      The US, like virtually every other country, does not allow foreign carriers to carry passengers on domestic routes.
      QF wants to serve NYC and the only way right now - perhaps changing wiht new aircraft - can only be served with its own metal via a stop somewhere in the western US.
      QR, to be clear, is doing what it is doing to circumvent the limits at the primary cities which QR can serve in Australia but which are limited by the number of flights.

    2. Mike C Diamond

      Exactly. And when they ran QF11/12 it connected with at least three TPAC flights and pax could also stop-over in LAX. Completely different to QR here. QR also plans CBR service via MEL that has some of the same characteristics as the ADL service (or will if it ever launches), but there is at least some demand for the flights from CBR.

    3. glenn t Diamond

      Having done the QF107/108 many times back in the day I can assure you those flights were considered ultra-convenient for Aussies wishing to go on the NYC. They were well patronised.
      I recall the only inconvenience was having to 'enter' the US at LAX and going through immigration and customs with luggage and joining the connector. At least they made it fairly streamlined.
      I often went SYD-HKG-JFK with CX to avoid the LAX debacle.

    4. Merry Chris Moss Guest

      Got kicked off the QF JFK-LAX one time in F. Rebooked on AA. Such a downgrade, but knew it was coming.

  22. derek Guest

    Not such a crazy schedule. Adelaide-Melbourne-Doha has a good schedule. Doha to Adelaide does overnight in Melbourne but long enough for a good night's sleep at an airport hotel. The arrival in Adelaide is well timed to have friends or relatives pick you up during lunch instead of well after midnight if the time on the ground in MEL was short.

  23. Tim Dunn Diamond

    While Qantas might not want to see QR grow any further, the reality is that there is little value to Australia - and potentially considerable harm - in having an airline like Qatar have as much service with virtually no local demand to its home hub. Not only does QR have the potential to harm Australian carriers - which right now is QF but other Australian longhaul carriers could grow in the future - but...

    While Qantas might not want to see QR grow any further, the reality is that there is little value to Australia - and potentially considerable harm - in having an airline like Qatar have as much service with virtually no local demand to its home hub. Not only does QR have the potential to harm Australian carriers - which right now is QF but other Australian longhaul carriers could grow in the future - but QR has the potential to harm other carriers including from SE Asia, Europe and other Middle East carriers.

    Australia like every country needs a well-balanced group of international carriers.

    Markets like the US to Australia have Open Skies meaning any carrier from either side can add as much capacity as the market will support - because there is enormous local demand.
    Qatar needs to develop a true local market from Australia to Qatar to justify more service.

    1. Kiwi Guest

      There was just as much l local demand for Australia UAE when Qantas partnered entered into an immunized JV with Emirates 10ish years ago. This is all self serving nonsense from Qantas as usual. Qantas long haul makes plenty of money and if they want to block Qatar should have to give up they JV immunization to Europe

    2. Tim Dunn Diamond

      Qatar is a substantially smaller market than the UAE
      QR's moves here are just about trying to get a leg up against EK and other carriers including in SE Asia.

    3. Luke Guest

      Regardless of the rights and wrongs presented for debate, QF long haul do NOT make much money at all. In fact they’re consistently loss making.

    4. glenn t Diamond

      There is no local market with Doha as a destination, and never will be. QR understands it is a transit hub, and provides well connected services to Europe and beyond. As Australians are accustomed to a stop somewhere on the way to Europe a few hours in Doha is more than acceptable.
      QR flights to/from Australia are full so extra flights are warranted.
      Qantas has not been government owned (well not the Australian...

      There is no local market with Doha as a destination, and never will be. QR understands it is a transit hub, and provides well connected services to Europe and beyond. As Australians are accustomed to a stop somewhere on the way to Europe a few hours in Doha is more than acceptable.
      QR flights to/from Australia are full so extra flights are warranted.
      Qantas has not been government owned (well not the Australian government anyway) for ages, but still, unjustifiably, holds a lot of back-room influence today. Its reputation is in the toilet currently and many more passengers than ever are looking at more reliable alternatives, like QR.

  24. Jim Guest

    A few years back, US carriers had essentially unlimited onward rights from Japan. While theoretically the purpose was to "scissor hub," in practice several flights were largely O&D - Tokyo to Sydney, for example - where the lower-cost US carriers could out-compete JAL and ANA.

    But yes, air services agreements tend to be designed in favor of the air carriers, rather than in favor of passengers.

    1. Kiwi Guest

      Northwest was never competitive in the local market and had to heavily discount to get anyone to fly Oz-USA via Japan

    2. Tim Dunn Diamond

      Jim,
      the treaty between the US and Japan was the result of WWII. Unlike what some believe, NW was the largest airline between the US and Japan, something that the Japanese airlines did not like. NW's profitabilty across the Pacific was highly variable and Delta was not willing to continue to operate at periods of low profitability or losses. The Japanese government forced the issue by opening Haneda back to extensive longhaul flights but...

      Jim,
      the treaty between the US and Japan was the result of WWII. Unlike what some believe, NW was the largest airline between the US and Japan, something that the Japanese airlines did not like. NW's profitabilty across the Pacific was highly variable and Delta was not willing to continue to operate at periods of low profitability or losses. The Japanese government forced the issue by opening Haneda back to extensive longhaul flights but prohibiting Delta from transferring its hub (intra Asia flights) from Narita to Haneda.
      Delta is now the largest foreign carrier at Haneda - or will be when they reinstate all of their flights - and Delta and Korean will operate the largest joint venture hub at Seoul where Delta is focused on connections to the rest of Asia.

  25. Morgan Diamond

    Disappointing from Qantas trying to block QR, hopefully under the revised agreement Qatar will be able operate at least 42 - 56 weekly flights to the big 4, which seems fair.

  26. Alvin | YTHK Diamond

    France: We've banned all domestic flights for the ecosystem!
    Qatar/Australia:

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Jane blogs Guest

I imagine their strategy is of course about increasing routes. And whilst Qatar is not my airline of choice & nor is Doha my destination of choice, unlike QAntas, Qatar & several foreign airlines supported Australia very heavily during the pandemic. They carried our freight & our citizens trying to get home. Where was Qantas at that time - nowhere, In the desert serving their shareholders not their customers or staff. Australia is an island with massive amounts of our day to day goods being imported. Qatar, Emirates & some Asian airlines were there for us during the pandemic so I think the govt should factor that into any negotiations. The days of Qantas having a free market are long gone!

4
Mike C Diamond

A couple of reversed cause and effect arguments here. 1. QR doesn't want to fly domestic sectors, they want extra MEL flights but aren't allowed. They can fly from ADL, and by adding this sector they are flying an extra MEL flight under the fiction that it's an ADL flight. 2. Emirates doesn't need to do this because they can fly where they want as often as they want, and QF doesn't object. The common factor in both cases is QF's obstruction of one and encouragement of the other.

3
SamB Gold

A380s are perfect for cases like these

3
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