Any moves by Qantas to cut international routes or swap to no-frills Jetstar services will lead to Middle Eastern and Asian airlines swooping on its passengers, says Australian aviation veteran and Etihad Airways chief executive James Hogan.
In nine days, Qantas is due to announce the result of its deepest review of its international services, prompted by anticipated losses of $200 million this year from the division.
The review has fuelled speculation Qantas might axe flights between Los Angeles and New York. There are also question marks on Buenos Aires, Honolulu and Mumbai, and rumours Jetstar could replace Qantas on some flights to the US mainland and to Europe.
Advertisement: Story continues below Speaking to The Age during a flying visit to promote Australian-Gulf relations, Mr Hogan said his airline would happily fill the voids Qantas created.
”They [Qantas] don’t have the network they had of 15 years ago,” said Mr Hogan, a 36-year veteran of the aviation industry.
”As Qantas starts restructuring their network, it presents even further opportunities for us to strengthen our foothold in the market.
”The Gulf airlines and the Asian carriers out of Australia will have a stronger consumer offering – whether it’s leisure or corporate.
”If they [Qantas] do dilute or marginalise their international flying that’s a great opportunity for us … and we’re happy to fill the gap.”
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce will announce the airline’s international business restructure on August 24, but it yesterday declined to discuss competitive rivalries.
”The Qantas group, with its successful two-brand strategy with Jetstar and Qantas, remains committed to both premium and leisure travellers,” a spokeswoman said.
Etihad Airways is based in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, and competes with the neighbouring colossus of Emirates Airlines and the ambitious Qatar Airways, along with other global airlines.
The Middle East carriers have a natural geographic advantage, as the region is a one-hop stop to major European and other destinations, Mr Hogan said.
Mr Hogan, who started Etihad from scratch seven years ago, hopes to break even this year, then turn a profit next year for the first time.
■Tiger Australia is regenerating interest from the public, with more than 1500 tickets sold since its flying ban was lifted last week, the airline says.
The ticket sales were ”more than the daily capacity available [seats available per day],” a Tiger spokeswoman said.
On Saturday ”a number of flights departed near full and this [past] weekend’s sales continue to provide strong results with some flights tomorrow looking to get close to selling out”, she said.