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Minister Blocks Bid to Bring Down Airfares, Boost Tourism

Transport Secretary Catherine King said the move was expected to boost Qantas' international revenue:

Blog / News / 2023 July 24, 2023

The Australian government has canceled an application by Qatar Airways to add more routes to Australia, giving consumers hope of scrapping rising international airfares.

Transport Secretary Catherine King said the move was expected to boost Qantas' international revenue: "The Australian government is not considering any new bilateral air rights with Qatar."

The Australian Financial Review reported in June that  King was reviewing Qatar Airways' application with input from Trade and Tourism Minister Don Farrell, among others.

Kevin Hogan, the National MP and opposition tourism spokesman, said it was disappointing and meant nothing for tourists. "I'm very much in favor of competition in the industry and providing more slots for airlines like Qatar will help our slow recovery in international tourism," Hogan said.

Sources said Qatar Airways both maintained services for stranded Australians, and also played a significant role in evacuating Australians when Kabul fell to the Taliban in August 2021, and had been seeking an expansion to its landing rights in a show of goodwill.

The bid was understood to have had the support of state premiers keen to see more international tourists return. But another industry source said granting Qatar more landing rights would potentially destabilise the landscape as other airlines return to full capacity. 

A group of women who allege they were taken off a Qatar Airways flight in Doha at gunpoint and stripped, then subjected to invasive searches, wrote to Ms King in July urging her to consider the airline’s “insensitive and irresponsible treatment of us and its failure to ensure the safety and dignity of its passengers”.

Anna* was travelling with her four-month-old baby when she was forced off a plane at gunpoint, stripped and searched. 60 minutes

A letter dated July 10 and seen by the Financial Review shows the minister responded to the women and assured them their applications would no longer be processed. But sources close to the airline said they were not  told the same on Tuesday. 

The women, represented by Marque Lawyers, have filed a lawsuit in federal court against the operator of Qatar Airways and  Qatar Airports, seeking damages under the Montreal Convention governing the treatment of international passengers.

They heard nothing about their case from the Labor government until July. Anna, one of the women,  whose real identity has been withheld by the court, said she was disappointed politicians had not put pressure  on the airline. But on Tuesday, the minister did not answer questions about what the government planned to do to help  women, and the women did not hear any further offers on her behalf. 

The airline said it was at the mercy of Qatari police at the time of the incident and that other airlines were under the same arrangement. A spokesman for Qatar Airways said: "Qatar Airways has confirmed that it will refer the matter to the Australian judiciary for consideration on legal grounds."

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