A380 formation flyover of Sydney trumpets Qantas-Emirates tieup

AFP-JIJI

Two Airbus A380s made a dramatic tandem flight Sunday over the Sydney Harbour Bridge to launch the new Qantas-Emirates partnership, hailed by the Australian carrier as a “seismic shift” in aviation.

The tieup, approved last week by Australia’s competition watchdog, allows the two airlines to combine operations for an initial period of five years, including coordinating ticket prices and schedules.

It will also see Qantas switch its hub for European flights from Singapore to Emirates’ Dubai base as it attempts to turn around its struggling international business.

“Dubai is the best hub for Qantas in the 21st century,” the company’s chief executive, Alan Joyce, said after watching the flyover by superjumbos from both airlines at 1,500 feet (450 meters) over Sydney’s famous landmark. “It is eight hours’ flying time from 75 percent of the world’s population.”

At a news conference with Emirates President Tim Clark, Joyce said the partnership would offer huge benefits to customers in terms of network and frequent flier benefits, cutting flight times to top European destinations.

“This is one of the biggest days in Qantas’ 92-year history. That’s because this partnership will play a critical role for us into the future,” Joyce said. “This joint network with Emirates is a key part of tackling the structural challenges that Qantas International is faced with. But more than that . . . it is a seismic shift in global aviation.”

Qantas said the feat by the two superjumbos is thought to be the first time anywhere in the world that two commercial airline A380s have flown in formation.

The alliance is seen as vital to the sustainability of Qantas, which last year posted its first annual deficit since privatization in 1995 due to tougher competition and high fuel costs for its international arm.

With services to Asia no longer tied to onward links to Europe, Qantas has said that it is also considering new direct destinations from Australia, including Beijing, Seoul, Mumbai, Delhi and Tokyo-Haneda.