Dubai's Emirates and Australia’s Qantas extended their codeshare pact for another five years, a move that will help support the recovery of international travel.
The agreement, signed at the International Air Transport Association's Annual General Meeting in Boston, will give passengers access to an extensive joint network, with millions of reward seats available to travel across Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the UK, Emirates said on Monday.
“As Qantas and Emirates recover from the impact that Covid-19 has had on their respective businesses, the partnership will continue to deliver financial upside for both airlines,” the carriers said.
The airlines have regulatory approvals in place to operate joint businesses until March 2023.
Both Qantas and Emirates will seek reauthorisation from regulators, such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, to continue the core elements of the partnership that include co-ordination of pricing, schedules, sales and tourism marketing on approved routes until 2028.
The agreement includes an option to renew for another five years beyond the term agreed.
"The extension of our partnership with Qantas is [a] testament to its success,” said Tim Clark, president of Emirates. “Despite the challenges of the past 18 months, today's announcement reinforces that Emirates is here for the long haul.”
The deal reflects Emirates's commitment to offer customers travelling to and from Australia the “best connections and frequent-flyer benefits” on the joint network.
“As borders re-open, we look forward to restoring our Australian flight schedules, including our popular A380 services," Mr Clark said.
Emirates, the world's biggest long-haul carrier, is increasing the number of cities it serves with its fleet of A380s to 27 by the end of November, adding 11 more routes to 16 destinations currently, the airline said in a statement in September.
Over the next six weeks, Emirates will resume A380 services to leisure and business destinations including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Johannesburg, Madrid, Milan, Riyadh (subject to government approvals), Sao Paulo and Zurich, it said at the time.
On Monday, the airlines said millions of reward seats would be made available together by Emirates and Qantas for frequent flyers to travel to more than 100 destinations, using their Qantas Points or Skywards Miles, which many have been stockpiling throughout the pandemic.
For Emirates customers, the deal provides access to more than 55 Australian destinations that Emirates does not fly to. Qantas customers are able to fly on Emirates to Dubai and access more than 50 cities in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa that Qantas does not have in its network.
"This [deal] marks the continuation of one of the most significant bilateral partnerships in aviation,” Qantas group chief executive Alan Joyce said.
“We called it 'seismic' when it launched in 2013 and it has been, especially in terms of what it's meant for over 13 million people who have travelled on flights that form part of the deal.”
Mr Joyce said the international aviation market will take years to fully recover so “close collaboration between airline partners is going to be more important than ever”.
Australia is a key market for the Dubai-based carrier, which has been serving it since 1996, taking more than 39 million passengers to and from Australian cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
Emirates increased the size of its operations from three flights a week to Melbourne in 1996, to more 100 flights per week before the pandemic.