Just when Qantas and Air New Zealand hope to be getting their trans-Tasman code share deal past the regulators, the Kiwis could be throwing a spanner in the landing gear of the number three player on that route.

The New Zealand Herald has an intriguing story that Emirates’ right to fly the Tasman could be under a long white cloud – but it’s Emirates’ presence on the route that gives the Qantas-Air NZ deal a chance, never mind the way it keeps airfares down.

The NZ Herald says the Air Services Agreement between New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates was intended to foster and cater for traffic between NZ and the Gulf.

“But only a small percentage of the people carried by Emirates on its Tasman flights are en route to or from the Gulf,” reports the paper. “The agreement places no limits on capacity but one of its principles is that each country’s national carrier should ‘not unduly affect’ the interests of the other country’s national carrier on services it already offers on part of the same route.”

“It also requires Emirates to charge ‘reasonable’ fares and gives the Ministry of Transport the right to approve them, so long as it does not require a different fare from what Air NZ charges on the same route.”

The NZ government has written to Emirates ‘encouraging’ it to bear in mind the agreement’s principles.

It would be more than a little bemusing to suddenly have Qantas championing the rights and performance of arch-enemy Emirates, even if it was only until the code share deal is approved. Still, strange things happen in airline politics and politics involving airlines – Qantas is quite happy to have Virgin Blue gradually getting around to tackling the Pacific route as long as it keeps a real competitor, Singapore Airlines, off it.

Not a marriage of convenience, not even an alliance of convenience – just convenience.

Peter Fray

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