Thu, Dec 13, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Qantas plans earlier Asia arrivals for businesspeople


A boxing kangaroo design is displayed on the tail of a Qantas plane at Sydney International Airport on Aug. 22.

Photo: AFP

Qantas Airways, seeking to end losses on international routes, will reschedule Hong Kong and Singapore services that arrive too late for business meetings as part of an Asia restructuring to lure corporate travelers.

Many of Qantas’ flights from Australia to Singapore and Hong Kong currently take up most of the working day, as the schedule is designed around onward connections to Europe, Simon Hickey, head of the airline’s international division, said in an interview in Sydney on Tuesday.

The changes would mean travelers waste less of the business day in the air and can make regional connections without overnighting in Asian ports.

“You’ve been landing in Asia at convenient times for landing in London, instead of convenient times for you to go and do business in Singapore,” Hickey said.

The Sydney-based airline is overhauling Asian services to focus on regional connections as it shifts its European hub to Dubai from Singapore under a planned tie-up with Emirates. The Asian drive is central to its bid to return to profit as Qantas contends with slower demand on European routes and rising domestic competition from Virgin Australia Holdings.

Qantas has said the alliance with Emirates will help increase the total number of seats from Australia to Singapore by about 40 percent, with a 25 percent increase in seats on connecting flights. Travelers on Qantas flights from Sydney cannot at present arrive in Singapore before 7:35pm, too late for business meetings or to catch many regional connections.

The carrier will announce the changes to its Asian schedules next month, Hickey said.

Those changes will focus on timing and Qantas is not looking to add flights at this point, spokesman Andrew McGinnes said by telephone.

The carrier will also introduce a new sleeper service for premium passengers on flights to six Asian cities and five others globally, McGinnes said.

The sleeper service, which allows passengers to eat meals in lounges so they can sleep throughout their journey, will start on flights to Los Angeles next week and roll out to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Tokyo, Jakarta, Shanghai and Manila by the end of next month, McGinnes said.

It will also be offered on Qantas’ routes to Johannesburg, London, Frankfurt and Dallas by the same date.

There may be an opportunity to deliver more passengers headed for China to Cathay Pacific Airways and its regional unit Hong Kong Dragon Airline, Hickey said.

Qantas currently code shares on the flights operated by the Hong Kong carrier to Beijing and Guangzhou.

“When I look at Cathay, what I’m very interested in is the Dragonair connections into China,” Hickey said. “There’s a lot of developing cities in China that people will now head to.”

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