Qantas bookings up as alliance with Dubai’s Emirates takes off

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Qantas reports a sharp increase in bookings to Europe since it signed a deal with Dubai’s Emirates, under which the first flight in partnership between the two airlines is due to take off today.

Australia’s largest carrier said ticket purchases to European destinations had gone up six-fold in the first nine weeks of sales compared with a year earlier, Bloomberg reported.

Alan Joyce, chief executive of the Sydney-based airline, told Bloomberg that the new network will cut average journey times by more than two hours from Melbourne and Sydney to the top 10 destinations in Europe. Under the deal with Emirates, Qantas will be able to fly to more European destinations with just one stop.

Australia's competition regulator formally approved the Qantas-Emirates tie-up last week, allowing the carriers to combine operations for an initial period of five years.

The airlines will coordinate ticket prices and schedules and struggling Qantas will shift its hub for European flights from Singapore to Dubai, ending a decades-long partnership with British Airways on the London route.

The partnership was marked today with a tandem flyover of the Sydney Harbour Bridge by two Airbus A380s.

Qantas said the feat by the two super-jumbos -- one from each of the carriers -- is thought to be the first time anywhere in the world that two commercial A380s have been flown in formation by commercial airlines.

“The sight of two of the world's great airlines flying two of the world's largest aircraft so close together over Sydney Harbour is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Qantas chief pilot Philip Green told AFP.

“There has been a huge amount of planning which has been necessary to make this possible, including seeking approval from safety regulators in both Australia and the United Arab Emirates."

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