Qantas Plans Earlier Asia Arrivals to Win Business Travel

Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN), seeking to end losses on international routes, will reschedule Hong Kong and Singapore services that arrive too late for business meetings as part of an Asia restructuring to lure corporate travelers.

Many of Qantas’s flights from Australia to Singapore and Hong Kong currently take up most of the working day, as the schedule is designed around onward connections to Europe, Simon Hickey, head of the airline’s international division, said in an interview in Sydney yesterday. The changes would mean travelers waste less of the business day in the air and can make regional connections without overnighting in Asian ports.

“You’ve been landing in Asia at convenient times for landing in London, instead of convenient times for you to go and do business in Singapore,” Hickey said.

The Sydney-based airline is overhauling Asian services to focus on regional connections as it shifts its European hub to Dubai from Singapore under a planned tie-up with Emirates. The Asian drive is central to its bid to return to profit as Qantas contends with slower demand on European routes and rising domestic competition from Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. (VAH)

Qantas has said the alliance with Emirates will help increase the total number of seats from Australia to Singapore by about 40 percent, with a 25 percent increase in seats on connecting flights. Travelers on Qantas flights from Sydney can’t at present arrive in Singapore before 7:35 p.m., too late for business meetings or to catch many regional connections.

Sleeper Service

The carrier will announce the changes to its Asian schedules in January, Hickey said. Those changes will focus on timing and Qantas isn’t looking to add flights at this point, spokesman Andrew McGinnes said by phone.

The carrier will also introduce a new sleeper service for premium passengers on flights to six Asian cities and five others globally, McGinnes said.

The sleeper service, which allows passengers to eat meals in lounges so they can sleep throughout their journey, will start on flights to Los Angeles next week and roll out to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Tokyo, Jakarta, Shanghai and Manila by the end of January, McGinnes said. It will also be offered on Qantas’s routes to Johannesburg, London, Frankfurt and Dallas by the same date.

China Connections

Qantas closed unchanged in Sydney trading today and has lost 4.8 percent this year.

There may be an opportunity to deliver more passengers headed for China to Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. (293) and its regional unit Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Ltd., Hickey said. Qantas currently code shares on the flights operated by the Hong Kong carrier to Beijing and Guangzhou.

“When I look at Cathay, what I’m very interested in is the Dragonair connections into China,” Hickey said. “There’s a lot of developing cities in China that people will now head to.”

Qantas announced in September that it will jettison a 17- year venture with British Airways (IAG) on Europe routes in favor of the Emirates partnership. Australia’s antitrust regulator is scheduled to make a draft determination on the proposed deal Dec. 20. The agreement is due to come into effect in April.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Fickling in Sydney at dfickling@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Neil Denslow at ndenslow@bloomberg.net

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