Qantas Airways chief executive Alan Joyce has no regrets about not expanding an alliance with Etihad Airways, even though it paved the way for Etihad to align itself instead with Qantas' chief competitor, Virgin Blue.
"Any deeper partnership with Etihad would have been competing against... very important partnerships and very important aspirations," says Joyce.
Qantas' partnership with Etihad covered Australia-Middle East traffic only. Etihad chief executive James Hogan cited the limited market and other restrictions when he ended the Qantas partnership to align with Virgin Blue. The Etihad-Virgin Blue alliance covers global destinations, in particular Europe. Joyce says cooperation on those European routes would have conflicted with Qantas' long-established partners and growth plans.
The carrier's joint-venture with British Airways has been "very successful" on flights to the United Kingdom, which is the largest market into Europe, Joyce says.
Also important is Qantas's codeshare with Air France that, Joyce says, "is the best codeshare agreement on its network and it's one of the best we have on our network".
An expanded Etihad alliance would have also competed with Qantas' low-cost subsidiary Jetstar, Joyce says. Jetstar's planned southern European routes to be operated by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner are the key plank of the Qantas group's growth strategy on the continent.
As the 787 has been delayed. so too have the European routes, fuelling domestic criticism that Qantas has limited one-stop flights to Europe. Virgin Blue and subsidiary V Australia are due to capitalise on that with their inaugural flight to Abu Dhabi on 24 February.
Joyce says Qantas considered flying to Abu Dhabi with a range of aircraft but the route "was not going to be profitable for us". He did not elaborate on how Virgin Blue would make the route profitable.
"We've got our partnerships and they're going to be pretty successful," Joyce says.