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Qantas-JAL tie-up faces veto from Australian antitrust regulator

Plan to coordinate flights would undermine post-pandemic competition: watchdog

SYDNEY -- Australia's antitrust watchdog intends to deny a planned five-year agreement by Japan Airlines and Australian peer Qantas Airways to coordinate flights between the two countries.

The companies were the only two airlines offering direct flights between Melbourne and Tokyo before the pandemic, the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission said Thursday.

"Protecting competition in the airline industry is critical to ensuring recovery in the tourism sector, once international travel restrictions ease," said Rod Sims, who chairs the commission. "This proposed coordination would appear to undermine competition significantly."

Qantas expressed disappointment with the draft decision. "Not only would this partnership be good for our business, it would be good for consumers and help key parts of the tourism industry recover," a representative said.

JAL called the news "regrettable" and said it will work with Qantas to decide on a response.

The commission will issue an official decision after a comment period ending May 27.

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