The Qantas-Emirates alliance has received tentative approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The positive finding in the ACCC's draft determination clears the way for connecting flights from Australia to Europe and Africa via Dubai, joint marketing by both airlines, shared earning and burning of Emirates Skywards and Qantas Frequent Flyer points and status, plus reciprocal lounge access and priority benefits.
However, the ACCC is proposing a five year partnership rather than the ten years sought by Qantas and Emirates.
Qantas-Emirates: the ACCC's draft ruling
In handing down his decision, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said "The considers that the alliance is likely to result in material, although not substantial, benefits to Australian consumers."
Sims pointed out that while "the alliance is likely to result in some public detriments through its effect on competition where Qantas and Emirates currently offer overlapping services. In most of these regions there are factors which are likely to mitigate the public detriment, including continuing competition from a number of established airlines."
The ACCC also flagged a potential drawback for trans-Tasman travellers, saying that "on overlapping routes between Australia and New Zealand the ACCC is concerned that the alliance may have an increased ability and incentive to reduce or limit growth in its capacity in order to raise airfares. Therefore, the ACCC is proposing a condition to restrict the ability of the alliance in this regard."
The official kickoff date for the new alliance is set for 1 April 2013, pending full ACCC approval in a subsequent decision expected in March 2013.
What the Qantas-Emirates alliance means to travellers
Qantas will adopt Emirates’ home of Dubai as a new strategically-located hub in the Middle East.
Qantas will continue to fly daily to London on its flagship Airbus A380s, however as of 31 March 2013 the daily Sydney-London (QF1/2) and Melbourne-London (QF9/10) services will stopover in Dubai rather than Singapore. (Frankfurt flights will continue to go via Singapore until October 2013.)
If you're heading to any European city other than London, Dubai is where you'll change planes and airlines, with an Emirates flight to your final destination.
This is a substantial win for travellers. With Emirates flying to some 30 cities across the UK and Europe you'll be just one hop from almost every major city, whereas the current Qantas model would have you transfer at London or Frankfurt and take another flight – your third after the Australia-Singapore and Singapore-London/Frankfurt legs.
Qantas passengers outside Melbourne and Sydney will catch Emirates flights to Dubai -- see what you'll find on board in business class, Emirates' first class suites or the Gulf carrier's somewhat inconsistent economy -- but with the option to be able to funnel frequent flyer points and status credits towards their Qantas account rather than Emirates' Skywards scheme.
But you'll want to read the fine print carefully: you'll collect Qantas status credits only if you book on a Qantas QF flight number, not on an Emirates EK-coded flight.
Qantas Frequent Flyer members will also get reciprocal treatment based on Skywards tiers: if you're a Qantas Gold, for example, you'll have the same perks such as priority checkin, a higher checked luggage allowance and lounge access as a Skywards Gold on Emirates.
For more information: read this set of frequently-asked questions on the Qantas Emirates alliance and visit qantasandemirates.com.
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About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.