Senate inquiry to assess decision to block Qatar Airways flights

A Qatar Airways Boeing 777 taxis at Sydney.
Bidgee, CC BY-SA 3.0 AU, via Wikimedia Commons

An Australian federal government decision to prevent Qatar Airways from adding 21 extra services into Australia will now become the subject of a Senate inquiry.

It has been reported that recently departed CEO Alan Joyce and the incoming CEO Vanessa Hudson will both front the new Senate inquiry into the decision to block Qatar Airways.

Denial of Qatar Airways additional flights

The Albanese government has held strong on its stance of blocking Gulf carrier Qatar Airways from adding an additional 21 extra flight services into major Australian airports.

The airline had requested approval for the extra flights, in addition to the existing 28 flights per week which it currently operates under a bilateral agreement.

The decision to block the increase – which would see the Gulf airline almost double its Australian flight services – has been roundly criticised.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Cabinet ministers faced increased calls from the opposition and crossbench in the Lower House this week, demanding further detail on the decision.

Federal Transport Minister, the Hon Catherine King was forced to defend the decision made earlier in the year to deny the request for expanded route services, saying that the decision was made “in the national interest.”


Qatar Airways 2020 ‘body search’ incident

Minister King has said that an incident in 2020 which saw 13 Australian women removed from a Qatar Airways flight and subjected to invasive body searches was a factor in driving the decision to deny the airline’s request.

The push to move for a Senate inquiry into the decision which has caused broad controversy past the upper house by just one vote on Tuesday.

Senate inquiry to investigate government decisions

A Senate inquiry will now be commissioned to investigate government decisions relating to the relevant bilateral air service agreement.

Critics of the Albanese government move argue that the increase in flight services by Qatar Airways will promote increased competition and lead to lower airfares in the Australian aviation sector.

Prime Minister Albanese has been accused of being in lockstep with the national flag carrier Qantas. Mr Albanese confirmed that he had spoken to Virgin Australia CEO Jane Hrdlicka on July 13, but told parliament on Tuesday this week that he had not been aware of his Transport Minister’s decision at that time.

According to the Daily Mail, departing CEO Alan Joyce told a recent Senate enquiry that Qantas had made representations to the government in a letter in October 2022.

Minister Catherine King has said that she does not recall having had discussions with Mr Joyce about the matter of increased Qatar Airways flights. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Albanese ruled himself out of having received the claimed correspondence from Qantas.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 3 Min Read
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