British Airways/Qatar Airways pact secures interim nod

Draft 'yay' for oneworld partners' cooperation on nine offline Australia routes

British Airways and Qatar Airways have been provided interim authorisation by the ACCC to coordinate air services on nine offline routes between Australia and the United Kingdom.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s tentative approval also proposes a favourable Draft Determination on the venture for a five-year term.

In January, British Airways and Qatar Airways sought permission to work on over 80 routes behind and beyond (B&B routes) their hubs of London and Doha. Their JBA covers elements such as schedule coordination, capacity, revenue planning, joint pricing, sales, marketing, frequent flyer programs and more.

The proposed offline routes are between four Australian cities and the UK, operating via Qatar Airways’ home port of Doha. The Australia-Doha leg of the routes is operated by Qatar Airways. The B&B routes include Adelaide-London, Melbourne-London, Perth-London, Canberra-London, Adelaide-Manchester, Melbourne-Edinburgh, Perth-Edinburgh, Melbourne-Manchester and Perth-Manchester.

No submissions were received in either support or opposition to the Proposed Conduct.

The watchdog said the proposed coordination is “likely to result in public benefits” through enhanced products and services, and unlikely to cause in public detriments, citing a number of reasons including “the strength of competitors on relevant routes”.

Additionally, the ACCC said it was cognisant of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry at present, including the “extreme reductions” in-flight operations.

“The ACCC recognises there may be fluctuations in market structure and dynamics over this time. However, the duration of this authorisation covers a period in which a return to more stable conditions over time is expected,” the regulator said.

Reasons provided for granting interim authorisation to BA and QR included it being unlikely the partnership will have material impacts in any market that they plan to begin coordinating services. “There is unlikely to be any harm to any interested parties,” the ACCC added.

Submissions in response to the ACCC’s draft determination are being accepted up until 9 April 2020. A final determination is earmarked for April/May.

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