While Alan Joyce didn’t actually say much that was ‘firm’ about route developments at the launch of the Qantas-Emirates partnership today, he certainly said enough to make observers and competitors consider what he said very carefully.

The scoop is on Australian Business Traveller, which managed to post a story that has yet to appear on the legacy media sites.

These are the interesting bits:

We’re talking about opportunities for us to re-enter Beijing, India and (add) more frequencies to Singapore and Hong Kong” Joyce said, “and we’re working through the numbers on those.”

However, while clearly confident of the Boeing 787’s potential, Joyce said he wasn’t yet ready to place firm orders for the Dreamliner.

“We’re not at the moment firming up the options” Joyce said.

“We have a bit of time before we have to make that decision and commit to the aircraft” Joyce explained, citing “volatility in the aviation industry” as one reason to proceed at a measured pace.

Followed up by this:

But a bigger reach for the Red Roo isn’t wholly reliant on the Boeing 787-9, with Joyce also eyeing off other destinations in the shorter term.

“We’re continuing to talk to Emirates about opportunities in continental Europe, and Berlin is one of them” Joyce said. “As this partnership is bedded down we’ll be looking at opportunities for both airlines to expand their networks.”

Issues arising? Given that Mumbai and Beijing non-stop have nothing to do with the the Dubai hub at the focus of the Emirates partnership what other new non-partnership routes might it be considering?

And if they are not necessarily going to be flown with 787-9s, the only other jet suitable for those routes that Qantas can get its hands on which fits them efficiently would be A330-200s, since the future of its dwindling 747 fleet looks very short term for cost reasons if nothing else.

Qantas has lost most of is capacity to do the heavier maintenance that comes with aging jets, and the rest of the hemisphere has too, in that the MRO facilities available are far more attuned to newer jets, and as some have rather tartly noted, it shows.

We could speculate endlessly. A330s are hard to get. There are some lower cycle but high hours A340-500s coming on the market this year, and a few that are said to be already there, so if Qantas wanted to be really innovative, it could do non-ETOPS affected non-stops to Sao Paulo in Brazil, but that is probably a punt too far out to make at the moment.

As would be using them to get reliable non-stop service both ways between Sydney and Dallas Fort Worth.

There is a positive angle to what Joyce said. He is contradicting some of the more gullible analysts who argue that Dubai shows how out of date and pointless new Qantas routes to Europe via Dubai would be.

And the key to this doesn’t seem to be fancy footwork involving the current bilaterals covering access to Germany, or Berlin specifically which he referred to, as a way of imitating the Etihad ploy to use its influence over AirBerlin, in which it purchased sizable equity, to get de facto German access not available to the UAE carrier.

If Berlin is firming up as a possibility it means someone in international relations and legal in Qantas has been working very hard at cracking open a few closed doors, mindful of the fierce anti-Emirates lobbying that wants to protect Lufthansa’s turf.

Which would be really good news. Now, if only we knew what it was that the ACCC sought and digested from Qantas before authorising the Emirates partnership last Wednesday, including the information that made it reject the Qantas claims about cost issues and a failing long haul business!

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