Qantas revamps services to woo corporate travellers

Australian carrier plans earlier arrivals for flights to HK and Singapore

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 December, 2012, 3:34am

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 travellers.

Many of Qantas' flights from Australia to Singapore and Hong Kong took up most of the working day, as the schedule was designed around onward connections to Europe, Simon Hickey, the head of the airline's international division, said yesterday.

The changes will mean travellers waste less of the business day in the air and can make regional connections without spending the night in Asian ports.

Qantas 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 it contends with slower demand on European routes and rising domestic competition from Virgin Australia.

Qantas has said the alliance with Emirates would help increase the number of seats from Australia to Singapore by about 40 per cent, with a 25 per cent increase in seats on connecting flights. Travellers 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 would announce the changes to its Asian schedules next month, Hickey said.

Those changes would focus on timing and Qantas was not looking to add flights at this point, spokesman Andrew McGinnes said.

The carrier would 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.

The service will also be offered on routes to Johannesburg, London, Frankfurt and Dallas by the same date.

There might be an opportunity to deliver more passengers headed for China to Cathay Pacific Airways and its regional unit Hong Kong Dragon Airlines, Hickey said. Qantas code shares on the flights operated by Cathay to Beijing and Guangzhou.

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

Qantas said in September it would end a 17-year venture with British Airways on Europe routes in favour of the Emirates alliance. Australia's antitrust regulator will make a draft determination on the proposed deal on December 20. The agreement is to come into effect in April next year.