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Middle East takes off for business travellers

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Closer than ever: Emirates and Qantas.

Closer than ever: Emirates and Qantas. Photo: Daniel Munoz

It's been just on seven months since Qantas and Emirates joined forces and put Dubai at the centre of the Flying Kangaroo's international network.

The familiar Singapore stopover en route to London and Frankfurt vanished. But so did the time-consuming and expensive need to back-track from London into Europe on Qantas's partner British Airways.

The most trumpeted benefit of the Qantas-Emirates alliance was that it put some European destinations – including a half-dozen in the UK – just one stop away from Emirates' hub in Dubai.

Qantas's bold move to align itself with Emirates appears to have paid off, with the airline reporting increased bookings of shared Emirates flights across Europe.

This also includes London's second airport of Gatwick, which Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has described as one of Qantas's "best performing destinations outside of London Heathrow" in terms of tickets sold.

But this unprecedented alliance between one of the world's oldest airlines and one of the newest is just one way that the the Gulf carriers are reshaping business travel for Australians.

Qatar joins Oneworld

This week sees Qatar Airways join the Oneworld airline alliance – a family to which Qantas already belongs.

As all Oneworld carriers share flights, lounges and even allow points to be 'earned and burned' on each member's frequent flyer programs, the move will see Qantas gain a second powerhouse partner from the middle east.

Qatar's membership will allow Qantas travellers to earn and use frequent flyer points on Qatar flights, enjoy access to Qatar's decidedly upscale lounges, and tap into Qatar's own network to add flexibility to their flight schedule – especially from Melbourne and Perth, which are Qatar's two Australian ports.

Qatar Airways will also open up some new routes for Qantas passengers, although many will effectively duplicate those of Emirates.

In Australia, Qatar operates daily flights from Melbourne and Perth to its home in Doha, with a swathe of onwards connections to Europe and Africa.

"Qatar is a really, really good fit for us," Oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby told High Flyer earlier this year.

"They can carry people into a lot of points in Southern Europe and Africa where we didn't have much presence before, and there are a lot of niches like that where they offer great value to flesh out our network."

Etihad: more flights, superjumbos too

The third of the Gulf giants is Etihad Airways, which is a cornerstone partner of Virgin Australia.

But outside of that alliance, Etihad is also beefing up its position in the Australian market.

The airline is tipped to begin direct flights from Perth to Abu Dhabi in February next year, adding another option for residents of the WA capital looking to fly into Europe.

Etihad will also open its own premium lounges at Sydney and Melbourne airports next year, ahead of upgrading Sydney and Melbourne flights to the airline's new Airbus A380 in late 2014.

This burst of activity by the Gulf carriers begs the question: is this a better or worse deal for Australia's business travellers?

One-stop access to most of Europe and Africa is incredibly appealing – but how does a stopover in the Middle East compared to, say Singpore or Hong Kong, fit into your plans?

And are you happy to 'plane hop' between partner airlines or do you prefer to fly with the one carrier all the way, such as Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines – or indeed Emirates or Etihad?

Is the Qantas-Emirates alliance and the rise of the Gulf carriers changing your travel habits?

David Flynn is a business travel expert and of Australian Business Traveller.

Twitter: @AusBT

28 comments

  • Just back from Europe. The Qatar option really makes planning a lot more flexible. In terms of where you begin and end your trip.

    Commenter
    Johnny
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    October 30, 2013, 10:32AM
    • If QANTAS were to stop flying to Europe and start being a virtual airline the problem of having to employ real people would end. Just imagine how many frequent flyer points we could earn and never set foot on the flying kangaroo. All those points earned on our weekly supermarket shop is also a great little earner for our virtual airline, if only they could get Emirates to paint a kangaroo on a few of their planes

      Commenter
      PORTMAN
      Date and time
      October 30, 2013, 10:40AM
      • I am so proud to see Australians are still flying Qantas; I myself haven't been on one of their planes ever, I feel a bit guilty, really. More than likely, I will never fly Qantas simply because I'm so fond of other carriers I've regularly used in the past and still use these days. Anyhow, it's good to see.

        Commenter
        Daniel
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        October 30, 2013, 11:11AM
        • Similar. I actually use QF for almost all domestic travel - better service, schedules, flight facilities and the price is almost as good.

          For international travel I never use QF. Price is one issue. Major issue has been ability to select a destination on continental Europe with one stop only from Melbourne. I don't like going via SYD and I don't like multi connections. Emirates have been a good choice with a single stop in DXB. But now with QF?EK deal I'll review this and probably will fly QF soon.

          Commenter
          MApB
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          October 30, 2013, 1:55PM
      • Just got back from Greece flying Etihad. Was just as good or not good as any other quality airlne (usually I fly Singapore). Syd-Abu Dhabi is over 13 hours, which is fairly long, but then its only 4-6 hours to most of Europe and you can pick your destination (eg Athens) without having to transit through London or Schipol. And, at least for my flight, the 'stop over' was only about 2 hours.

        But if I wanted to spend a few days somewhere along the way, it wouldnt be Abu Dhabi. And the airport there isnt great, particularly coming back when the additional security requirements imposed by Australia delayed everything quite considerably.

        Dont see any reason why you wouldnt use these airlines if they price it right and have the right connections

        Commenter
        asdf
        Date and time
        October 30, 2013, 11:52AM
        • As a frequent flyer from Melbourne I was pleased to see Qatar join OneWorld because of their daily Melbourne-Doha flights which can then zip me on to London and other European cities. The thought of earning Qantas points for those trips was very appealing.

          But I should have known better. Qantas wouldn't want to give their customers any reason to fly Qatar over Emirates, so Qantas has shackled Qatar with the WORST point-earning deal among all Qantas OneWorld 'partners'!

          All the details in this story below but the best summary is that you could earn more points flying Qantas from Melbourne to Perth than Qatar from Melbourne to London!

          http://www.ausbt.com.au/qantas-frequent-flyer-points-what-you-ll-earn-on-qatar-airways

          Commenter
          Son of Ryan Bingham
          Date and time
          October 30, 2013, 11:58AM
          • Just spent a fair bit of time researching flights to Amsterdam next September. I found the 'free' stopovers offered by the major Asian carriers somehow always ended up adding to the price quite a bit - and the headline low fares were still quite restricted in terms of dates or had poor connections on one leg. So I ended up with Etihad, much cheaper and good connections.

            Commenter
            Enno
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            October 30, 2013, 11:58AM
            • having done this flight a few times a year on Qantas, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore and Virgin... I can say that Singapore is by far the easiest and least stressful place to connect on a Sydney to London Flight. Less walking, easier security, calmer, less of a shopping mall feel. Etihad comes in 2nd with Abu Dhabi being a similar feel to Singapore, Dubai as a connecting airport for the UK is my least favourite. You climb 5 floors, do security twice, walk through a huge duty free only to return to the same gate you left from with very little help or direction from staff. While i am a frequent flier this is all on economy flights that your average holiday maker would take.

              Commenter
              MM
              Location
              Sydney
              Date and time
              October 30, 2013, 12:22PM
              • Just completed the MEL-DXB-LHR return trip in May this year. Have to say Dubai as a hub is fantastic, and the Business Lounge is quite amazing. I will certainly be transiting through there next time. The addition of Qatar to the OneWorld Alliance is great, particularly as a Sapphire member, it gives even more options. I'm looking forward to flying Qatar, and will be definitely keen to sample their lounges as well.

                Commenter
                CD
                Location
                Melbourne
                Date and time
                October 30, 2013, 12:27PM
                • Dubai is great unless you need to transfer to a smaller plane (such as a B777 to London Gatwick). That involves a poorly signposted journey down escalators (lifts all out of order), a train trip then more escalators. The Business class lounge in this area has long queues for the limited number of toilets.

                  I was much happier coming back with Malaysia. More spacious cabin, Chef on Call meal pre-ordering, outstanding service and good lounges. Kuala Lumpur is a great place to break your journey too.

                  Commenter
                  BB
                  Location
                  Western Vic
                  Date and time
                  October 30, 2013, 1:11PM

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