The nation’s competition regulator has given the green light to an airline partnership that will assist Qantas reignite flights to North America.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on Thursday reauthorised the Qantas-American Airlines alliance for another five years.
The partnership will ensure flights between Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United States will be able to operate on a better connected travel schedule.
ACCC commissioner Stephen Ridgeway said consumers would realise the benefits once international travel demand rebounded from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Passengers travelling on trans-Pacific routes are likely to benefit through enhanced products and services, including a greater likelihood of increased capacity and new routes, increased connectivity and improved schedule choice,” Mr Ridgeway said.
“Loyalty program benefits and improved lounge access, cost savings and efficiencies are also likely to be a result.”
Qantas has lodged similar alliance proposals on other major airline routes, with a joint business agreement with Japan Airlines being reviewed by the ACCC.
A Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) submission to the ACCC is in favour of the partnership, which will assist in securing flights between Tokyo and Cairns.
Since the start of the pandemic, the northern Australian tourism board said the estimated loss for Cairns because of international border closures was approximately $2.2bn.
“Re-establishing a strong connection between Cairns and Japan with a national carrier is an essential part of our region’s international market recovery,” TTNQ chief executive Mark Olsen said in a statement.
“The authentic experiences offered in Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef region have long been highly desirable by the Japanese market.”
Qantas said the partnership would revive international travel demand and is proposing to offer three flights a week between Tokyo and Cairns from 2022 onwards.
The major airline said it would complement Jetstar’s existing presence on the route and would give customers the option of either a premium or budget service.
“A new Qantas operation would rejuvenate tourism in far noth Queensland and beyond, attracting a new cohort of premium travellers from Japan to Queensland and providing more opportunities for frequent flyer redemptions,” Qantas said.
Predominantly servicing Japanese tourists coming to Australia, Qantas noted Cairns could be a potential “mini hub” for “triangulated” itineraries for inbound travellers wanting to visit multiple destinations.
“These new services would have the potential to grow aviation employment and economic activity in the region,” the airline said in a submission to the ACCC.
Qantas said for the operation to be successful, the airline would need access to Japan Airlines’ distribution, sales and marketing channels in the country.