S’pore ‘said no to Qantas premium airline’

By Karamjit Kaur | Source: ANN
Singapore said “no” when Qantas asked if it could set up a premium airline here, Simon Hickey, head of the Australian carrier’s international operations, has revealed.

If the authorities here change their minds, the flying kangaroo is happy to revisit the matter, he told The Straits Times yesterday at the opening of Qantas’ new lounge at Changi Airport.

For more than a year since talks started between the airline and aviation authorities here on plans by Qantas to set up a new premium airline, neither party had confirmed that Singapore is not interested – until now.

Hickey said: “The Singapore Government said ‘no’. We’re still open to hearing if that (the decision) changes but you take the umpire’s decision.”

He also revealed that the airline is not interested in Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong, which had been earlier flagged as potential bases for the new carrier.

Despite Singapore’s rejection and Qantas’ recent decision to move its hub for Australia-Europe flights from Changi Airport to Dubai, the airline is committed to its operations here, he said.

To tap strong growth in Asia, the Australian airline will work closely with its low-cost arm Jetstar and other partner airlines.

It has also retimed its flights to Singapore to give travellers more flight options to the rest of Asia.

Capacity on services to Singapore, in terms of seating numbers, has also increased by up to 40 per cent.

“We used to spend a lot of time flying through Asia. Now we are much more focused on flying to Asia, and for Asia,” Hickey said.

Qantas’ new Asian strategy and its tie-up with Emirates are part of a bigger plan to turn its loss-making international business around.

In the six months to the end of December, the airline reported profits in all parts of its business except Qantas International, which posted a before-tax loss of A$91 million (US$96 million).

On whether Dubai will ever take Singapore’s place as Qantas’ biggest base away from home, Hickey said: “I don’t see that happening.”

This is because Singapore is a key hub for Qantas’ Asian operations and traffic between Australia and Singapore is also increasing.

He later said in response to the same question: “It’s very difficult to say.”

Singapore and Dubai serve different markets, he said.

Hickey was in town for the official opening of the airline’s new lounge at Changi Airport Terminal 1.

The facility can seat 460 guests, and has 20 showers and several 80-inch television screens.

Hickey told guests at the event: “This multimillion-dollar investment is part of our broader commitment to improve the experience we offer on services to and from Asia, including our Airbus 330 upgrades to begin this year.”