Non-flying services deal still open, says Qantas

QANTAS has left the door open to broadening its alliance with Emirates to include ground handling and support services, but is willing to exclude them from the present deal to allay concerns from unions.

QANTAS has left the door open to broadening its alliance with Emirates to include ground handling and support services, but is willing to exclude them from the present deal to allay concerns from unions.

With just four weeks to go before the alliance is due to be launched, Qantas has sought to make clear that the focus of the alliance is on the flying operations and that the two airlines have not begun any talks or planning about operations such as ground handling, catering or aircraft engineering.

"There are no current plans for co-ordination [for non-flying operations such as catering] in Australia at this time," it said in a submission to the Australian Competition Consumer Commission.

However, Qantas noted the two airlines' flying operations might jointly look to buy services from other companies which offer ground handling, engineering and catering operations.

Qantas's catering operations include Q Catering and Snap Fresh, while Emirates's associate, dnata, owns Alpha Flight Services. The latter has about 1200 employees in Australia.

Qantas and Emirates said they were willing "to exclude co-ordination between catering and aircraft cleaning operations" from their alliance "in order to seek to allay issues" raised by trade unions such as the Transport Workers' Union.

But it said "any potential co-ordination between the catering and aircraft cleaning operations would, if considered necessary at the time, be subject to a separate application".

The long-haul pilots' union and the TWU, which represents baggage handlers, have also raised concerns jobs could be threatened by a "narrowing of competition and a transfer of flying to Emirates" on services from Perth and Adelaide to Europe and Asia.

But Qantas said jobs would be "more secure" with the deal, as it would be forced to cut more services to Europe if it did not go ahead.

"Qantas is not ceding routes to Europe, nor is Qantas restricting its ability to grow," it said.

The competition regulator has given a tentative nod of approval to the Qantas-Emirates alliance but will not make a final decision until next month. The airlines plan to launch their alliance on March 31.

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