Under the 10-year deal, Qantas will run daily A380 flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London via Emirates’ Terminal 3 in Dubai, built specifically for the A380.
From Dubai, Qantas passengers will be able to continue on to London with Qantas or change on to an Emirates plane and fly directly to one of more than 70 destinations that it serves in Europe (including London), the Middle East and Africa.
Currently, passengers travelling with Qantas from Australia to Europe can only fly directly to Frankfurt or London from Singapore, where they have to connect to other European destinations.
By tieing up with Qantas, Emirates will also be able to offer its passengers better connections, to more than 50 destinations on Qantas’ domestic network.
The two airlines will sell seats on each other’s flights, coordinate schedules, frequent flyer programmes and prices – which industry analysts warn could lead to a rise in airfares due to reduced competition.
Qantas says the partnership – which is expected to become official in April, subject to regulatory approval – will not just open up new destinations but will be key to turning around its heavy-loss making international business, which lost AU$450m (£290m) in the last financial year.
Qantas to cut ties with British Airways
The new partnership will spell the end of the ‘Kangaroo Route’ that connects passengers between London and Australia via Singapore – and Qantas’ long-running alliance with British Airways.
The airline said it will contact passengers who have bookings from April 2013 and who might be affected by the changes.
Qantas will also end its daily flights to Frankfurt, leaving London as the only European destination served by Qantas.
The move will allow the airline to focus on its more profitable routes, by relying on Emirates to provide connections from Dubai.
The airline said of its decision to cancel Frankfurt flights: “While this service has been underperforming for some time, and withdrawal was inevitable, the partnership with Emirates will enable it to take place with minimal impact on Qantas customers.”
Qantas said it will also strengthen its network of flights across Asia – a region Qantas group CEO Alan Joyce said is key to the airline’s future: “We currently have an Asian flying schedule based on travelling via Asia to Europe,” Joyce said. “But our Australian business customers want better access to Asia, and we have been looking to address this for some time.”
He added: “We will increase dedicated capacity to Singapore and re-time flights to Singapore and Hong Kong to enable more ‘same day’ connections across Asia. We believe this will significantly improve the economics of our Asian operations.”