Qantas’ plans to launch a London to Australia non-stop service appear grounded after Perth Airport all but closed the door on the airline’s hopes to run the prestigious international route on its brand new long-range 787 aircraft.
At issue is the airport’s demand that Qantas operate the service from the airport’s international terminal whereas Qantas needs to operate the flight from its domestic facilities to seamlessly hub with other domestic flights connecting passengers to and from cities and towns across Western Australia and Australia.
Perth Airport has all but rejected Qantas’ proposal to develop WA into a western hub for non-stop operations to Europe.
Over the weekend, the airport issued a press statement saying that while it supported a direct London flight, it would have to operated from Terminal 1 international on the eastern side of the airport.
Qantas insists it will only operate the flights from its domestic terminal facility on the western side of the airport, which require A$25 million of upgrades to handle international flights, including customs facilities.
Perth Airport’s chief executive Kevin Brown said that it “has offered Qantas a generous multi-million-dollar incentive package’’ to leverage off the existing fit for purpose facilities in Terminal 1 International.’’
“T1 International has the capacity to accommodate direct services to the UK and Europe, and these services can commence from T1 International at any time,” he said.
But airport consultants dispute that claim saying that T1 only has seven gates and often they are all being used with some passengers having to walk across the tarmac to get to their plane.
They point out that the highest priority for the airport is to build a new international satellite terminal – T5 – to accommodate the growth in demand.
However, Qantas’ need relates to seamlessly transferring passengers off intrastate and interstate flights to the non-stop flight and this can only be done at the domestic terminal.
Yesterday a senior Qantas spokesman said that the airline had long supported the airport’s plan to operations to an expanded T1 “but the simple reality is that it won’t be ready for about another eight years”.
“The opportunity to create a Western Hub with the Perth-London flight will be here in 18 months, and the only place we can do that in a seamless way that actually makes it viable is the proposal we’ve put to Perth Airport to use our existing domestic terminals for international flights,” the spokesman said. “We’re optimistic that common sense will prevail.”
The State Premier Mr Barnett repeated his comments of last week that he was prepared to accept an “interim” solution of Qantas operating direct UK/Europe flights from T3/T4 for the next five years.
“I would then expect Qantas to move across to the T1 international terminal,” he said. “Securing the western gateway hub through Perth Airport will be a boost to our State and I am optimistic that an agreement will be reached soon.”
State Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said he understood it was a commercial matter to be negotiated between Perth Airport and Qantas, but it was also an important issue for the State.
“The Premier, as Tourism Minister as well, needs to urgently call in all parties for a roundtable discussion to seek a resolution that secures the flights for WA,” he said. “It would be disappointing for Perth if we lost this flight on Mr Barnett's watch.”
The non-stop flight is expected to draw from passengers not only to and from WA but also from the eastern states.
The service would be, for instance, ideal for Qantas Adelaide and Brisbane passengers who do not currently have a Qantas option to Europe without backtracking via Melbourne or Sydney.
Typically, the passenger mix will be split equally between Australians and international visitors.
Qantas is expected to grow the service from a daily flight to London to add Paris, Frankfurt and possibly Rome services building the annual potential value to WA and Australia to $650 million and 7000 jobs based on government tourism spend figures.
Studies have shown that a non-stop will grow a route by up to 300 per cent.
For many Europeans the big obstacle to travelling Australia is the time and stops required and the proposed non-stop service eliminates both.
While the Qantas proposal appears dead Perth Airport added that the airline had submitted additional information to the airport in relation to the proposed new service which it is currently reviewing.