Qantas says deal will lure more Europeans
Qantas says its alliance with Emirates will help encourage more Europeans to travel to Australia despite the high dollar making the visit expensive.
Launching the tie-up this week, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce also said the deal would enable the two airlines to eat into the market share of the 30 other airlines that fly between Australia and Europe, particularly main rivals Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
"With us having the Emirates network and our frequent flyer base [of 9.3 million members], we believe we will shift share significantly back," Mr Joyce said.
But the airlines face a challenge in convincing Europeans from nations with weak economies to travel to a country that has been made more expensive by the high dollar.
The number of tourists from Britain - Australia's biggest market in Europe - fell 2.4 per cent to 593,600 last year.
It has meant that Qantas has been carrying a slightly higher proportion of Australians on its flights to and from Europe than foreign travellers.
Mr Joyce conceded the dollar had made Australia a "little bit less attractive". But he emphasised that the alliance's one-stop flights from 32 cities in Europe would help increase the number of inbound tourists.
The alliance is mostly focused on routes to Europe but includes services to North Africa, the Middle East, Asia and New Zealand.
Diarmuid McDonald, an auditor from Ireland's second-largest city, Cork, said people from his home town were much less inclined to consider a holiday in Australia, preferring destinations much closer to home.
"You would want to be pretty immune to the downturn to even contemplate a holiday to Australia these days because of the economic conditions," he said. "No European country is spared from the downturn - even Germany's growth has completely levelled off."
Emirates president Tim Clark agreed the high dollar was an issue but said Europeans were still eager to travel to Australia because it was regarded as a top destination.
"If it is considered difficult now, and we are launching our flights and they are full, I wonder what's going to happen when the eurozone sorts itself out and things get good again."
The reporter travelled to Dubai courtesy of Qantas.