Qantas-Emirates alliance cleared for trans-Tasman routes
Qantas and Emirates have cleared the final hurdle to forming their extensive alliance after the New Zealand government allowed them to extend their deal to trans-Tasman routes.
Australia's largest airline has also reshuffled its senior management ranks, resulting in high-profile executive Olivia Wirth taking on an extra role as marketing chief.
However, her title as chief government lobbyist will be handed to new recruit Andrew Parker, who has been Emirates' chief spin doctor for the past six years.
Mr Parker, a one-time adviser to former Liberal leader John Hewson, will join Qantas in July.
Almost two months after the alliance won approval from the Australian competition regulator, New Zealand Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has given the green light to the Qantas-Emirates deal for five years.
The airlines' request to extend their alliance to the trans-Tasman market was the most contentious part of the deal, which is focused on routes to Europe via Emirates' base in Dubai.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has already forced Qantas and Emirates to keep capacity on four overlapping routes on the Tasman at the levels they were at before March.
The New Zealand government has not imposed any extra conditions on the airlines.
Mr Brownlee said the alliance would benefit passengers, exporters and the tourism sector through a strengthening of connections with Emirates' international network.
The government insists low fares will be maintained on the Tasman from "more sustainable competition and cost savings as a result of the alliance".
Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand are also seeking approval from regulators for an extension to their own alliance on the trans-Tasman.
A decision is expected in September.
Air New Zealand and Virgin have a combined market share of almost 57 per cent on the Tasman, compared with about 40 per cent for Qantas, Jetstar and Emirates.
Analysts at Macquarie Equities said the chance of a price war between the two airline groups was minimal.