Qatar Airways (QR) seems to be gearing up to compete with Emirates for the “Kangaroo route” business, announcing that it will increase the capacity of its daily Doha–Melbourne service starting from April 1. The Doha-based Gulf carrier also flies daily to Perth in Western Australia.

By replacing a Boeing 777-200LR with a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on the route, QR will see a 30 per cent increase on its daily flights to Melbourne, which translates to 76 more seats per day. The aircraft features a two-class configuration, with up to 42 seats in business class and up to 293 seats in economy class. The Perth route is also serviced by a B777-300ER.

This announcement follows another from earlier this month that QR will use its first incoming A380 on flights between Doha and London Heathrow (see here) starting this summer. The upper deck of the A380 will be fitted with eight seats in first class and 52 in business, along with a lounge area and a small economy section. The entire main deck will be economy class, and there will be a total of 517 seats on the aircraft.

As QR901 arrives in Doha from Perth daily at 0550 while QR905 from Melbourne touches down in the Qatari capital at 0610, if QR3 bound for London at 0755, currently flown by a B777-300ER as well, is being serviced by the A380, it will form quite an ideal alternative to the traditional Kangaroo route served by the Qantas-Emirates partnership via Dubai. For background on the partnership, click here.

From London to the two Australian cities, QR4, which arrives in Doha at 2350 daily, will connect well with QR904 bound for Melbourne at 0055 and QR900 bound for Perth at 0200. By this summer, the Hamad International Airport, which is designed with speedy transit in mind, should be in operation.

Meanwhile, Emirates has increased capacity on its three-times daily service to Perth by replacing one of the Boeing 777-300ERs with the A380 (see here). In addition, the airline has also just taken delivery of its 46th and 47th superjumbos, and has deployed them on services to Bangkok and Melbourne respectively.

Emirates will be looking to further increase capacity to Australia following Qantas’ announcement that it will be cutting a number of services over the next few years due to overwhelming losses in FY2013 (see here). It has also just replaced one of its three Boeing 777-300ERs flying daily to London Gatwick with the A380, further strengthening its hold of the Kangaroo route market.

Of course, the Gulf carriers are not the only ones competing on the Australia-UK air links. British Airways offers a daily through flight to connect Sydney and London via Singapore, as does Virgin Atlantic via Hong Kong. The latter, however, is going to cease the Hong Kong-Sydney leg in May because of “increasing costs and a weakening Australian dollar” that have affected profitability (story here). Asian carriers such as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, however, continue to use their home bases’ geographic advantages to capture the market.

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Clement Huang and Reggie Ho