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    and this.... Whilst an open skies agreement might get the QAN/AIZ deal over the line, would the unfetered entry of SingAir be a plus for QAN's share price?

    Canberra in open skies talks with Singapore 6/12/02

    AFR News - 06.12.02 03:24

    Jane Boyle

    Federal government officials will travel to Singapore in the next few weeks to negotiate an open skies agreement between Australia and Singapore that may help Qantas and Air New Zealand's chances of securing regulatory approval for their proposed $NZ550 million ($490 million) equity alliance.

    The negotiations follow the free-trade agreement struck between Australia and Singapore last month, and come as competition in the Australasian airline industry is in the spotlight as regulators examine the planned Qantas-Air NZ deal.

    Australia has an open skies arrangement with New Zealand. Australia began negotiations with Singapore to similarly liberalise air services rights between the countries in 2000 but no agreement was reached as Australia was unconvinced of the benefits.

    An open skies agreement with Singapore is now viewed by industry analysts as a potential trade-off for a Qantas-Air NZ alliance, as it may give Singapore Airlines greater scope to compete with the airlines on trans-Tasman and Pacific routes.

    Such a deal could allow Singapore Airlines to fly beyond Australia to third destinations such as the United States.

    "Our aim is to pursue a liberal agreement that is in our interests and in Singapore's interests," a senior Department of Transport and Regional Services official said yesterday.

    Transport Minister and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson has backed Qantas's plans to take a 22.5 per cent stake in Air NZ, saying consumer concerns should not override Australia's need to have a strong national flag carrier.

    The future of competition on the Pacific routes is more uncertain after Qantas's major rival between Australia and the US, United Airlines, yesterday had its request for a $US1.8 billion ($3.2 billion) government loan guarantee refused.

    The rebuff has pushed the airline closer to filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, raising new questions as to whether it will be able to maintain capacity between the US and Australia and New Zealand.

    United's Australian manager, Stephen Pearse, said yesterday there were no plans to cut back its Australian schedule.

    Meanwhile, the Flight Attendants Association of Australia is seeking from Qantas a 10 per cent base wage rise for the year, effective from December 17, and a 3 per cent increase the year after.

    The union has sought more in the first year to offset crew reductions.

    FAAA divisional secretary Johanna Brem said that earlier this year Qantas reduced cabin crew sizes by one person per plane in a move she estimated saved the airline more than $40 million on international operations.

    Also, today Qantas will take delivery of the first of its 13 Airbus A330s for the routes between Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

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