Qatar Airways, one of the world's fastest growing airlines, may launch a daily service to Perth next year to cash in on WA's resources boom.
The airline's chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, who was in Melbourne yesterday to launch the airline's first Australian destination, said the airline was looking at Perth instead of Sydney.
"Sydney is not a forgone conclusion and we are keen on Perth," Mr Al Baker said.
Both Doha-based Qatar and Abu Dhabi airline Etihad are lobbying the Federal Government for more access to the Australian market with talks expected to begin in February.
Qatar has an allocation of 14 services a week, of which seven are being used for Melbourne, and Etihad has 28 slots a week with services to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
The two airlines are keen to tap into the WA resources boom and emulate the success of Emirates, which serves Perth twice daily from Dubai.
Qatar Airways, which was launched in 1997, operates scheduled flights from Doha to 85 cities across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, the Far East and North America.
The airline has 220 aircraft worth more than $US40 billion ($43.9 billon) on order over the next 10 years, as well as a new airport under construction.
Last month, Etihad's CEO, Australian-born James Hogan, told Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese that the airline would take delivery of a further 100 aircraft over the next eight years and wanted to ensure it could increase flights to Australia.
Over the past 12 months, Emirates, Qatar and Etihad have all continued to grow while most airlines have cut back capacity.
Emirates is now looking at increased services to Australia and insiders suggest that it may launch a third daily service to Perth within two years.
The airline's executives have told The West Australian that they may be interested in using the giant A380 on the Perth route.
Emirates, which started serving Australia 13 years ago, also plans to request a modest increase in the number of services to Australia from its current cap of 84 a week by 2011.
A spokesman for Mr Albanese said the Government was "keen to do what was in the national interest when it comes to negotiating international services agreements." <div class="endnote">
- with the SMH </div>