Aviation Setback in busy period Dubai Airport repairs to hit Qantas flights

Qantas faces a reduction in flights to Dubai during a three-month period next year due to urgent repairs to the runways at the world's second-busiest international airport.

Qantas faces a reduction in flights to Dubai during a three-month period next year due to urgent repairs to the runways at the world's second-busiest international airport.

It has emerged that Dubai Airport told Qantas in late April that it proposed halving the number of flights it could operate there while major construction work was carried out on two runways.

The runway closures also threaten to reduce the number of flights that Qantas' alliance partner, Emirates, can operate between its home base and Australia. Between them, Qantas and Emirates control more than half of the market share of passengers who fly between Australia and Europe.

With it showing the strain from an influx of large aircraft such as A380s, the airport is carrying out extensive repair work from next May, including laying 180,000 tonnes of asphalt on its northern runway. This period takes in the busy European summer.

Qantas has been lobbying Dubai officials to retain all of its 28 weekly landing slots during construction, and senior executives are in the city this week to again press the point.

The airline has ruled out diverting flights to other airports such as Dubai's Jebel Ali, which is still under construction and only recently began taking passenger flights.

Since the draft proposal was released, Qantas said the number of landing slots it could use had risen, but it declined to put a figure on it. The airline emphasised that it was "much closer" to gaining the 28 weekly slots it needs to operate its twice daily return services to London via Dubai.

Qantas International acting chief executive Narendra Kumar said it was in talks with its alliance partner, Emirates, and the airport "about minimising the impact the runway works will have on our operations".

Mr Kumar said he expected Qantas to have its allocation of landing slots for the three-month period finalised in the next few weeks.

As part of its alliance with Emirates, Qantas shifted its overseas base for flights to Europe from Singapore to Dubai in late March.

Under the draft proposal, Emirates faces a 22 per cent reduction in services - or 5825 departures - from Dubai Airport to destinations around the world during the three-month construction period.

Emirates declined to say what impact it would have on Australia-Dubai flights, but conceded that it would have to reduce operations across its network to reflect a drop in the airport's capacity.

Any disruption during the busy northern hemisphere summer - when Australians flock to Europe - will be a boost to Qantas' rivals.

Dubai Airport has told all airlines they will need to reduce their operations due to "the significant capacity reduction resulting from the single runway operations".

Richard Woodward, a Qantas A380 captain and vice-president of the pilots union, said Dubai Airport was facing the consequences of a rapid increase in flights, especially large aircraft such as A380s which placed more pressure on runways.

"Dubai is getting busier by the second," he said.

Large long-haul planes flying to Dubai already carry more fuel - an arrival allowance - in case they are put in a holding pattern.

mosullivan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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