Canadian officials have confirmed the country has signed an air services agreement with Qatar to allow direct scheduled flights between the two countries.

Transport Canada admits the agreement "comes amid an escalating months-long dispute between Canada and Qatar's neighbour, the United Arab Emirates, over expanding landing rights".

Emirates aims to expand its three-day-a-week Dubai-Toronto service, while Etihad has also expressed an interest in increasing its service to Canada.

The UAE's push for an expansion to the Canadian market for Emirates and Etihad has met resistance by Canadian flag carrier Air Canada.

Recently Air Canada chief executive Calin Rovinescu said while he endorses liberalization, the carrier "is not supportive of turning over our hard-earned network and flow traffic to state subsidised carriers of countries where there is no such reciprocal demand".

The new deal between Canada and Qatar allows for three weekly direct passenger and three direct cargo flights between the two countries.

"This agreement responds to the needs of the Canada-Qatar travel market and is a first but important step in developing Canada-Qatar air relations," says John Babcock, a spokesman for Canadian Transport Minister Chuck Strahl.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news