Qantas and Emirates have announced a 10-year partnership which will see Dubai become the main connecting hub for European flights, timings change for flights to Asia and Qantas' long-standing partnership with British Airways effectively end. How will that alter your flying habits? Here's what you need to know.
Picture by Alexander Hassenstein
The long-anticipated deal (which has been rumoured since Qantas' last major rejig) became official this morning. The most visible change is that Qantas will fly directly to Dubai and rely on Emirates to connect passengers to many cities in the region. The two airlines aren't merging, but they are co-ordinating schedules and frequent flyer programs. Full details of the scheme are still being finalised, and it will require authorisation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
First point: the earliest possible date when this will happen is April 2013, and depending on regulatory concerns, it could be much later. Until then, it will be business as usual. Once the partnership is official, expect these shifts:
Qantas will run daily A380 flights from Melbourne and Sydney to Dubai, landing in the A380-only Terminal 3, with some services continuing to London. Qantas is officially dropping its Singapore-Frankfurt route. The idea is that from Dubai, passengers can connect to Emirates services in Europe, the Middle East and Africa more easily than via more westerly locations. Codeshare options will exist on these flights.
Qantas will also retime its daily flights to Singapore and Hong Kong to allow more same-day travel. There will be more direct flights to Singapore, which makes sense given Qantas is working on a major lounge revamp there.
The end for BA
Qantas and British Airways are terminating the joint business they operate to co-ordinate flights. Both will remain members of the oneworld frequent flyer group, so lounge access should continue and some flights will have code shares, but the level of co-operation will be lower than currently. That change is an inevitable consequence of Qantas shifting its focus on sending passengers to Europe via Emirates' Dubai hub. Qantas says it will contact any customers who have bookings from April 2013 and who might be affected by the changes.
Frequent flyer changes
The detail on frequent flyer alternations is relatively brief, though it doesn't sound like anyone will be much worse off. This is what the press statement says:
The Emirates and Qantas frequent flyer programs will be aligned, giving customers expanded opportunities to earn and redeem points. Emirates and Qantas will provide reciprocal access to tier status benefits including end-to-end customer recognition, lounge access, priority check-in and boarding and other exclusive services.
In Australia, customers for either airline with lounge access can choose to use either the Qantas or Emirates lounges.
We'll update this post if new details emerge. What are your thoughts on the shift to Emirates? Tell us in the comments.