Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Qantas and British Airways merger means bringing the pacific pain to the Kangaroo Route

Story on CNN that BA is in talks with Qantas over a merger (thanks to iKangaroo on twitter where I spotted the story).

I hate this idea.

Right now Qantas is gouging me and every other customer on the Pacific Route (East Coast Australia to West coast USA). Qantas earns 40% more revenue per passenger kilometre on that route than the Kangaroo route because...they can. And they "can" because there is no competition. The only "competitor" (if you can call it that) is United. The US and Australian governments have restricted who can fly this route - ensuring profit good times for Qantas and high prices for me. There are possible long way round options with Canadian and Hawaiian Airlines but the routings and timings are terrible. V-Australia (Virgin Blue's long haul play) is due on the route in Feb 2009 but there is only limited capacity improvements expected and how they will connect out of LA to other US destinations is not clear. Basically Qantas own this route and take advantages of customers because of it.

I ranted about this a lot in a recent post - "Open Skies between the US and Australia: There is no one I don't hate right now".

Currently we (travelling consumers) have been spared this gouging on the Kangaroo Route (Australia to UK/Europe and a Qantas Trade mark) because more than thirty carriers fly this route in addition to BA and Qantas from the well respected - Singapore, Cathay, Emirates, Virgin-Atlantic, Etihad, to the mid ranges - Malaysian and Thai, to the micro and niche - AirAustral, to the "no way in hell would I get on it" - Garuda.

But the UK and AU governments let BA and Qantas enter into a "Joint Services Agreement(JSA)" in 1995 allowing them to
"coordinate scheduling, marketing, sales, freight and customer service activities"
In other words to engage in behaviour that otherwise would be anti-competitive. When accused of this BA and Qantas point to the above facts - that 30+ carriers fly the route as proof that competition continues. However since the JSA was signed the following airlines have pulled out of the route - KLM, Alitalia, Air France, Lufthansa, Lauda Air, Austrian Air. Do you see a common theme? In fact there is now not one Continental European carrier flying the route. Not one. All have been forced to pull out because of the scheduling and marketing collusion of BA and Qantas under the JSA (OK..maybe in the case of Alitalia there have been other causes).

I have a (legitimate) concern that a merged BA and Qantas will have further competition consequences and help Qantas to extend their Pacific gouging to the Kangaroo route. If the government is listening please squash this. Then again it is the AU government(s) that allowed the JSA and Pacific Route dominance to continue.

Update - Delta have announced they will fly the route around July 2009. The Cranky Flier has written a post showing what this means in terms of flight schedules across the Pacific.

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