Qatar inquiry: Call for international airlines to be granted greater access to Aussie airports

An international airline has yet to hear back from the federal government about whether it can run additional flights to Australia.

Turkish Airlines last month made an application in the hope of boosting the carrier’s offering up from seven flights per week into Australia’s capital cities from Singapore.

But Australia and New Zealand general manager Ahmet Halid Kutluoglu said more than 45 days later he was yet to hear a word from Transport Minister Catherine King or the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

“We are still to this day expecting a reply,” Mr Kutluoglu told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday.

“It’s important to have a quick response because in aviation everything is about planning. We have to plan six to eight months ahead for ticket sales to start.

“Our first plan was to start in December … now it doesn’t seem possible.”

Turkish Airlines would not reveal how many additional flights it was seeking approval for but did say it would not be for direct flights into Australia.

Landing rights agreements are negotiated between governments behind closed doors rather than government to airline. Ms King has been contacted for comment.

Mr Kutluoglu said he was not aware how long negotiations normally took place in Australia.

Last week, it was confirmed that Qantas would not oppose the Turkish Airlines application.

It’s despite the carrier’s lobbying against a Qatar Airways request to double capacity to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

A snap senate inquiry was formed in the wake of the revelations, examining Qantas’ role in the decision and Australia‘s bilateral air agreements.

In a submission to the inquiry, the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority revealed it had requested consultations with the federal government last month.

But a meeting, which the QCAA said would help it “better understand the reasons for the decision” and to “build a road map” for the future, has yet to be locked in.

“We sincerely hope that the department will agree to schedule consultations as a matter of urgency and priority,” it said.

It said Qatar’s 28 weekly flights compared with Emirates’ 84 and Etihad’s 63 flights, and the airline was subjected to stricter competition requirements.

Meanwhile, the Productivity Commission said Australians would be better off if greater access to the nation’s capital cities was granted.

Acting chair Alex Robson stressed that there was room for improvement in current arrangements and called for a more transparent cost benefit analysis in government decision making.

“Restrictions on access to aviation markets can impede competition between airlines, which matters because it can harm the community in many ways,” Dr Robson said.

“Less competition can mean that airlines offer fewer or lower quality services and charge higher prices. As a result, Australians may pay higher prices for worse service.”

Ms King has repeatedly said her decision to block Qatar’s request was made within the national interest.

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