Qantas’ plans to expand non-stop flights from Perth to Europe are on hold, with the airline’s ongoing disputes with Perth Airport causing the carrier to shelve plans to go beyond the current Perth-London service out of Australia’s west coast.
The two companies are currently in disagreement over both airport usage charges, and which international terminal Qantas can use in Perth for its expanding network of international flights – a stoush that already cost the city a non-stop Qantas flight from Perth to Johannesburg.
In a briefing with media at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting in Seoul, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce shared that “today, we would be in the process of preparing for further services out of Perth into Europe – we would be ordering aircraft to do Perth to Paris, which would be the next one on our list, except for the fact that there’s a dispute with Perth Airport.”
Referring to the battle over airport charges, in which Perth Airport is suing Qantas in the courts of Western Australia, Joyce continues: “Until that’s resolved, we’re not going to reward bad behaviour. We don’t think that’s the right thing to do with our business, so unfortunately, we’re not expanding (out of Perth) at the moment.”
Speaking to the broader issues with management at Perth Airport and Qantas’ planned Perth-Johannesburg route that didn’t take off, Joyce says that “basically I’ve never heard of an airport stopping an airline doing a new route, so they’re doing unbelievable things that they need to get resolved.”
Australian Business Traveller understands that Qantas was hoping to use its newly-designed Terminal 3/4 precinct in Perth – where flights to London already depart – to host the airline’s other international services including Johannesburg, but that Perth Airport was insisting that these flights depart from the other side of the airport.
Qantas is said to have found this impractical, given the geography of Perth Airport and the need to swing aircraft between domestic and international flights: a difficult feat when it takes the better part of an hour to tow planes from one side of the airport to the other, not to mention the cumbersome transfer experience for passengers making that inter-terminal journey.
Still, Joyce is optimistic. “I hope it doesn’t go on until 2022-23” when Project Sunrise is due to kick off, and the potential of non-stop flights to Paris from Australia’s east coast exists, “so we think it would be resolved before then.”
“We’ll be very excited about doing Perth-Paris as the next cab off the rank," provided those disputes are resolved.
Approached by Australian Business Traveller for comment, a spokesperson for Perth Airport said the airport "has repeatedly stated it is ready to host a Qantas Johannesburg service through T1 International where 17 other international carriers operate.
"Perth Airport has secured pricing agreements with 23 out of 24 airlines which operate at the airport – which is evidence that our approach to pricing is both fair and reasonable. Perth Airport is seeking a speedy resolution to the Qantas non-payment of airport charges issue and the current independent arbitration through the Supreme Court will best enable this."
On the delivery flight of Qantas’ first Boeing 787-9 in October 2017, Joyce told Australian Business Traveller that the airline had already pencilled in a daily schedule for the planned Perth-Paris flights.
"For the first time we have daily rights for Paris. Last time we were in Paris we only could do three days a week, which made it sub-economical and meant that we weren’t attracting the business market, but now that has changed."
Joyce also had his eye on a non-stop flight into Germany, with Frankfurt – which the airline previously flew via Singapore before axing the route in 2013 – sitting on the shortlist.
"Germany is still a big market and it's been hard for us in the past when we were flying through a hub, so the opportunity there is actually quite real.” However, that route is also likely to be collateral damage in Qantas’ stoush with Perth Airport.
Chris Chamberlin is attending the IATA AGM in Seoul as a guest of IATA.