The European Union and Qatar will sign a comprehensive open-skies agreement later this year, which will give airlines from both sides "unlimited and unrestricted" access to the other's market. It is part of a broad air services agreement that includes provisions relating to fair competition, transparency, the environment and consumer protection.
Qatar Airways said the deal means "all air carriers from the 28 European Union member states and Qatar now have unlimited and unrestricted access to their respective territories."
The open skies agreement between the EU and Qatar will enable Qatar Airways to deploy A321LRs to secondary airports across Europe. (G B_NZ)
The European Union is currently attempting to adopt Comprehensive Air Transport Agreements (CATA), which apply to all states within the union and replace existing individual state arrangements. European Commission Director General for Mobility and Transport Henrik Hololei said that similar discussions with Oman would start in March. Talks with the United Arab Emirates are said to have broken down over an instance its airlines should be allowed to fly through European airports and onward to other regions such as the USA.
Earlier this week Qatar Airways changed 20 Airbus A321s it has on order from the standard to long-range A321LR versions. These 170-200 seat aircraft will be ideal for opening new routes from Doha to secondary airports across Europe.
Editorial opinion: This move improves access to the Gulf and destinations beyond Doha for EU citizens who do not live near major airports. However, agreement is not particularly good news for European airlines. While it gives them unfettered access to Qatar, it also gives Qatar Airways unrestricted an ability to fly to any EU airport.
Europe is a much bigger market that Qatar, and the deal offers Qatar Airways a significant opportunity to expand its 'beyond Doha' business. Qatar Airways has an extensive network radiating from its base into the rest of the Middle East, Asia, Australasia, and Africa and this new agreement will enable it to channel passengers from Europe to all of these regions via its hub at Doha. So [for example] in the future Qatar Airways might offer a one-stop trip from a mid-sized city such as Nice, France to Nairobi, Kenya. But the flight to Doha could also carry customers to any other Qatar Airways destination. Air France would struggle to fill an aircraft on a direct point-to-point flight, leaving it's customers with the disadvantage of having to start their journey travelling in the wrong direction, to Paris.
The Aviation Oracle wonders whether there was any coincidence in Qatar Airways converting an A321LR to long range versions, two days before the announcement of the open-skies agreement.
Text © The Aviation Oracle.