Qatar Airways Operates Ghost Flights Between Adelaide & Melbourne

Qatar Airways, a major player in the global aviation industry, has been operating near-empty flights between Adelaide and Melbourne, Australia. This unusual operation, often referred to as a 'ghost flight', has been ongoing since November 2022.


Exploiting a Legal Loophole

The reason behind these near-empty flights is a legal loophole in Australia's strict aviation laws. Qatar Airways is currently limited to running 28 weekly services in Australia’s four major airports – Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth. However, there is no limit placed on how many services Qatar can run to non-major airports. To exploit this loophole, Qatar Airways introduced a second daily, non-stop flight between Doha and Melbourne in November 2022, but with Adelaide registered as its destination and departure port in Australia. Flying the 354-seater Boeing 777-300ers between Melbourne and Adelaide means the airline does not exceed the 28 weekly services into major airports it is allowed to operate under the existing bilateral agreement.


The Ghost Flight

The ‘ghost flight’- QR988 flight- is flown between the two Australian cities to exploit a loophole out of Australia’s strict aviation laws. The airline is not permitted to sell tickets on the leg between Melbourne and Adelaide to domestic passengers under Australia’s aviation laws. It can only carry the few international passengers booked through to Doha who have chosen the two-legged route instead of the separate daily non-stop flight between Adelaide and Doha that Qatar Airways also operates. While flying from Doha, the flight reaches Melbourne at 11:30 pm. While most passengers disembark from the QR988 flight in Melbourne, those continuing to Adelaide have to endure a lengthy six-hour layover at Tullamarine Airport’s international terminal before the flight’s departure at 5:35 am, due to the curfew timings at Adelaide airport from 11 pm to 6 am.

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This unique operation by Qatar Airways highlights the complexities of international aviation laws and how airlines navigate these rules to maximize their operations. While this practice may seem unusual, it is entirely within the bounds of the current aviation laws. It remains to be seen if any changes will be made to these laws in response to such practices.

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