Greek Australians know Qatar Airways well as one of the key airlines used to return to Greece for holidays.
However, recently the federal government made a controversial decision to block extra flights from Qatar Airways.
This decision as well as, flight prices, airline competition and consumer rights will come under the spotlight at a Senate inquiry.
Opposition transport spokeswoman Bridget McKenzie is heading a committee on Australia’s bilateral air services agreements that will begin hearings on Tuesday.
Senator McKenzie has been critical of Transport Minister Catherine King’s decision to reject Qatar Airways’ bid to double the 28 weekly services it currently offers in Australia, after being lobbied by Qantas.
Critics claim the move shields Qantas from competition and allows them to inflate airfares.
Though Ms King has claimed the decision was made in the national interest, she has not elaborated on the reasons.
Senator McKenzie said it was the equivalent of an economic sanction.
“It’s actually impacted our economy and it’s impacted Qatar Airways economic future,” she told ABC radio on Tuesday.
On claims by the government the decision was somewhat in response to human rights abuses in the Middle Eastern nation, Senator McKenzie said governments “don’t usually jump straightaway to economic sanctions”.
“We work our way through diplomatic frameworks and processes.”
The senator has also accused the government of having a cosy relationship with Qantas and suggested the carrier’s support of the ‘yes’ campaign for the upcoming referendum could have been done to bolster its political sway with the government.
The committee is expecting to hear from the current and former heads of Qantas and other airlines, alongside representatives from airports and unions, economists, the Qatari ambassador, the consumer watchdog and the Productivity Commission.
Tuesday’s hearings will focus on consumer concerns and issues at Sydney Airport after a June report from the consumer watchdog alleged Qantas had cancelled flights to keep take-off and landing slots at the east coast airport.
“Australians at the end of the day want an aviation industry they can where they can afford a ticket, where the planes take off and land on time, where your bags get to your destination at the same time you do,” Senator McKenzie said.
“And at the moment, they’re not, both domestically and internationally.”
Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker was invited to the Tuesday hearing but declined, though he could appear at a later date.
Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham said he hoped Qatar would participate in the inquiry after a written submission had been made.
“I can understand there may be some hesitancy given the same government and the same minister will hold the pen over future decisions or applications,” he told Sky News.
“But I would encourage Qatar or any other industry player to simply come forward … to actually tell the facts and present the evidence around why it is that Australians would all be better off if we had more competition and more seats.”
Labor senator Tony Sheldon said he was “very disappointed” and that Mr Baker was no more above the law or parliamentary scrutiny than Qantas chairman Richard Goyder or its CEO Vanessa Hudson.
The Australian carrier has faced a recent storm of PR disasters marked by a Senate grilling on its $2.47 billion profit during a cost-of-living crisis, a potential $250 million fine from the consumer watchdog for flight cancellations.
Compounding these issues are its former CEO Alan Joyce’s expedited exit, and a major High Court loss which found the airline had illegally sacked 1600 workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The committee will hold four public hearings, one each in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra and is due to report by October 9.