Trigger warning: this article discusses sexual assault and may be distressing to some readers
Two of Australia’s largest airports have called on the Federal Government to reconsider its refusal of Qatar Airways’ request to run 21 more flights per week into Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, stating that the decision could equal more expensive airfares and impact tourism.
The Australian Senate is undertaking an inquiry into the decision, following push back from Melbourne and Brisbane Airports, and Qatar Airways’ President, Simon Harrison, stating that the decision is a “national insult”.
Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) told the senate inquiry that the refusal was driving up fares, reducing travel options and undermining tourism.
BAC Executive General Manager, Ryan Both, told the inquiry that airlines need more competition and that airfares had almost doubled since April.
“Higher airfares restrict travel, restrict trade, and restrict people from visiting family and friends,” Mr Both said.
“It means we have less Europeans, which is the primary market we are talking about visiting Australia and visiting Queensland
“Higher airfares are not good for the economy and not good for choice.
“We see it as in the interests of the people of Queensland that we have open skies and, in particular, that the decision be reviewed.”
Melbourne Airport’s Head of Airline Business Development, Michael Cullen, agreed, stating that the economic contribution of international services should be a relevant factor in the decision.
Federal Minister for Transport, Catherine King, has also found herself in the firing line, after she confirmed in early September 2023 that her decision to refuse Qatar Airways’ proposal was influenced by an incident at Doha Airport in October of 2020, which was detailed to her in a letter from those affected.
Ms King received a letter in June 2023 from five women who explained that they were forced to exit their flight at gunpoint, and subjected to invasive body searches.
The letter states that some of the women “wrote to Qatar Airways complaining of this appalling and frightening treatment but no response was given, nor was any personal apology offered.”
As a result they brought legal proceedings against the airline in the Federal Court.
According to an article published by The Australian Ms King sent a letter in reply saying that the Federal Government was not considering granting Qatar Airways additional air rights on 10 July, before she made Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, aware of the decision.