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WESTRALIAN Airports Corporation's (WAC’s) policy of providing 'incentives' to encourage new airlines to fly to Perth will be under the spotlight from 03 July, when Qatar Airways adds a three-times-weekly service from Perth to Doha.While the industry welcomes new competition in the WA market, the question is being asked: Is Qatar Airways doing much more than diluting rival Emirates Airline’s long-haul through business to and from Europe and elsewhere?‘Incentives’ offered by airports are designed to grow new inbound markets, but the reality is that where competitors already service the same or similar source markets, the newcomers have little choice but to engage in predatory pricing to win custom – inbound and outbound.In this case, Emirates has a thriving hub city – Dubai – with its own leisure business and commercial centre plus one of the world’s biggest route networks for long-haul travel. Many WA companies already have set up operations in Dubai and see the emirate as the regional hub for commerce. Doha, Qatar Airways’ home base, has a strong economy dominated by petro-chemical industries, which tie in with the WA economy, but it is hard to see Doha challenging Dubai’s appeal as a commercial centre or holiday destination - the city is much more likely to be used as a hub for inbound travel and ex-Perth outbound traffic to Qatar's more than 100 destinations (and 70 more planned) world wide.Emirates was a beneficiary of financial incentives when it began Perth daily services in 2002 and has flourished. It operates double-daily services from Perth to Dubai and beyond. It is poised to add more services in line with market demand. Adding a hungry competitor to the mix could well affect those plans. With sky-high jet fuel costs and emissions and other taxes, these days no-one adds air services in the hope that demand will grow to fill available capacity.Every successful airline today is trimming capacity, downsizing aircraft, and adding routes only where demand outstrips supply and reasonable yield can be expected.So are these ‘incentives’ value for money for WA taxpayers or any others involved in funding them? The dollars involved are a tightly-held secret, with both the WAC* and Tourism WA in this case citing 'commercial confidentiality'. However, it is widely believed that China Southern, for example, was offered a multi-million dollar ‘carrot’ to begin services much earlier than the airline originally planned. The industry believes Qatar, too, will be ‘looked after’. Ironically, it is Australia’s national carrier, Qantas Airways that has most to lose when its home airports or states offer incentives to foreign airlines. Qantas’ market share internationally has fallen in recent years from a dominant 32 per cent to 18 per cent, in part due to foreign airlines being given state and airport incentives to fly to Australia.Key travel agencies contacted in a straw poll on the impact of Qatar starting Perth services believe there is a likelihood - especially in the start-up phase - of a price war as Qatar bids for outbound long-haul business via Doha to Europe and possibly even east coast USA.Russell Brown, managing director of Perth’s Travel Associates, said he welcomed new airlines to the WA market, especially if they offered services or routes not currently available."We have been associated with Emirates from the beginning and enjoy a strong working relationship. Feedback from our customers is very positive on Emirates’ services and the double-daily flights are very popular. It will be interesting to see how Qatar Airways - which is not well-known here in WA - performs via Doha."Kerry Coupar, general manager of Consolidated Travel in Perth expects most Qatar Airways sales to be for services to London and other points in Europe. "It's always good to have new airlines flying from Perth. A competitive market is welcomed by the consumer. I expect Qatar to do reasonably well out of Perth as it won the Skytrax award in 2011 for Best Airline. Ticket sales are reported to be going well, which shows the West Australian consumer's willingness to try something new. I also think Doha would be an interesting place to visit. It is not as commercialised as Dubai."BUT HOW DOES QATAR STACK UP AGAINST EMIRATES? Qatar Airways (QR) commenced operations in 1994. Relaunched in 1997, it now flies to more than 100 destinations world wide. Winning ‘Airline of the Year’ in 2011, the carrier boasts a fleet of 101 aircraft with seven more on order. The fleet is dominated by A320s (28) A330s (29) and B777s (26). It has deferred its order for three A380s due to wing cracks, ordered another B777 and three more A320s. Emirates (EK) is one of the most-awarded airlines in history. Its fleet comprises 172 wide-bodied aircraft (plus 111 on order including 68 A380s and 43 B777s) and is one of the youngest fleets in the skies. The fleet mainly comprises A330-200 (27) A340 (18) A380 (21) B747 (five) and B777 (102). Emirates operates a global network of 121 destinations in 70 countries. Since the beginning of the year the carrier has added Dublin (January) and will add Barcelona, Spain (03 July) and Lisbon, Portugal (09 July.THE PLANSQatar Airways plans to operate a B777-200ER in two-class configuration on Perth services initially three times a week from 03 July increasing to daily by November. Emirates operates a B777-300LR in three class configuration twice daily.HOW THEY COMPAREQatar Airways EconomyLuggage allowance: 23kgs of checked baggage plus one carry-on piece not to exceed 7kgs. Seating configuration 3-3-3. Seat pitch 81.28 cms to 86.36cms. Seat width 48 cms. Entertainment touch screen TV. No laptop power. No wi-fi: In-flight magazine Oryx.Emirates EconomyLuggage allowance 30kgs plus one carry on piece of 7kgs. Seating configuration 3-4-3. Seat pitch 86.36 cms. Seat width 43.18 cms. Entertainment personal TV. Laptop power in some seats. No wi-fi; In-flight magazine Open Skies.Qatar Airways Business ClassLuggage allowance 30kgs plus two pieces of carry on not exceeding 15 kgs. Seating configuration 2-2-2. Seat pitch 198cms. Seat width 56 cms. Entertainment personal TV. Laptop power in all seats. No wi-fi; In-flight magazine Oryx.Emirates Business ClassComplimentary chauffeur to airport (kilometre limits may apply). Invitation to lounge; Luggage allowance: 40kgs of checked baggage plus two pieces of carry-on baggage with 12 kgs maximum weight. Seating configuration 2-3-2. Seat pitch 137cms-183 cms reclining to full-flat bed. Entertainment: Personal digital screen with 1,200 channels on demand. Laptop power. Satellite phone in-seat. No wi-fi; In-flight magazine Open SkiesEmirates First ClassComplimentary chauffeur to airport; Invitation to lounge; Luggage allowance 50kgs plus two pieces of carry on not exceeding 12kgs; Seating configuration 2-2-2. Seat pitch 175 cms for lie-flat bed. Seat width 52 cms. Entertainment: Personal TV with ICE entertainment digital screen and 1,200 channels on demand; Laptop Power - all seats, no wi-fi; In-flight magazine Open Skies.Best available fares on Qatar and Emirateswebsites including taxes and charges: Qatar Airways. Perth-Doha departing 03 July returning 03 August (sample only) - economy A$2795.61, business class A$9249.61.Emirates Airline. Perth -Dubai departing 03 July returning 03 August (sample only) - economy A$2560.76, business class A$8061.56, first class A$11,711.56.The market could become even more competitive in November this year if – as is rumoured - Abu Dhabi-based rival Etihad Airlines launches daily Perth flights.• MICEBTN tried to contact Scott Norris, commercial manager for Perth Airport for comment but he did not respond.
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