Block stands on more Qatar Airways flights as row rages

A decision to block Qatar Airways from securing extra flights into Australia won't be reversed by the federal government.

The decision by Transport Minister Catherine King in July and existing unrest over the airline's treatment of customers and massive profits have lit a political bonfire in Canberra.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce on Tuesday announced he would retire two months early to allow the airline to rebuild its reputation.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the government would not review the Qatar decision, which the opposition said amounted to a "protection racket" in favour of Qantas.

"Transport ministers from both sides of politics from time to time take decisions in the national interest and that’s what’s happening here," Dr Chalmers said.

He said it had not impeded extra international flight capacity into Australia.

Dr Chalmers later said he had not been consulted on the Qatar decision.

Under opposition questioning on Wednesday, Ms King told parliament her department had consulted with "relevant aviation stakeholders".

"I was well aware of different stakeholders' views when I took the decision," she said.

Asked whether she had met with Mr Joyce before the decision, Ms King said: "I do meet routinely with the CEOs of all of the airlines, airports and peak bodies".

But she said the "main people" who lobbied her over the Qatar application had been from Virgin Australia and discussions with Qantas had focused on workplace laws.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the minister had not answered the question and "continued to escape property scrutiny".

"The minister's integrity is seriously in question," he told parliament.

Leader of the House Tony Burke said the minister had acted in the national interest.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been drawn into the furore after having to clarify comments he made in parliament.

Mr Albanese initially said, in answer to an opposition question on Tuesday, that he had spoken with Virgin Australia before Ms King's decision.

Virgin has a strategic partnership with Qatar Airways.

Mr Albanese later clarified his answer, telling parliament he spoke to Virgin chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka on July 13 - three days after the decision - by phone from Perth about the air services arrangements with Qatar.

But he did not know at the time the minister had made her decision.

Mr Albanese said in Jakarta on Wednesday there were air services agreements with more than 100 countries and decisions were always made in the "national interest".

Foreign Minister Penny Wong revealed on Wednesday she had spoken with her Qatari counterpart this week, but the issue of the air services agreement was not raised.

Senator Wong said she discussed a range of bilateral matters, including in relation to an incident at Qatar's Hamad airport, and multilateral issues ahead of the UN General Assembly later this month.

Five Australian women are taking legal action over their alleged strip searching at the Hamad International Airport - the Doha home of Qatar Airways - in October 2020. 

Whether the airport incident had anything to do with the government's Qatar Airways decision is expected to be raised in a Senate inquiry, alongside issues of competition and ticket pricing.

Ms King has been formally asked to provide documents explaining the decision.

Liberal deputy leader Sussan Ley said the Qatar Airways decision should be overturned.

Qantas also faces Federal Court action by the competition watchdog over allegations of advertised tickets for flights that had already been cancelled.

The company is reviewing the allegations and has acknowledged its standards "fell well short" as the airline emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month Qantas announced a record pre-tax profit of $2.47 billion for the past financial year.

Nationals leader David Littleproud said the Qantas board and new chief executive had "very serious questions to answer" over their treatment of customers.

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store