Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways is planning to introduce additional services in Australia, as other carriers step in to fill the gap from Qantas grounding its fleet over industrial dispute.
Etihad said it is discussions with partner Virgin Australia, a rival of Qantas, to offer various options including domestic shuttle services within the country using its aircraft. Normally foreign airlines cannot operate domestically in other countries.
"We are already looking at a range of options to support Virgin Australia in its home market by freeing up additional capacity if required," James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad Airways said in a statement.
Qantas Airways sparred with unions at a second labour tribunal on Sunday after Australia's prime minister called for an end to the industrial dispute that grounded the airline's entire fleet.
Qantas grounded more than 100 aircraft on Saturday and said it had cancelled 447 flights affecting more than 68,000 passengers by Sunday afternoon.
Etihad said it would support Australian travellers disrupted by the Qantas dispute. The Gulf carrier said it is in talks with Virgin Australia to operate a shuttle service between Sydney and Melbourne. It is also eyeing operation of a daily flight between Sydney and Bangkok.
"We also stand ready to assist Qantas passengers who are stranded overseas and need to travel home, and have advised our call centres worldwide to do everything possible to assist people in these circumstances - in fact, to help anyone whose international travel plans have been affected," said Hogan.
State-backed Middle East carriers are in the process of fierce expansion and threaten to slowly shift the centre of gravity in air travel from Europe to the Gulf.
Etihad, Dubai's Emirates and Qatar Airways together operate hundreds of flights each week to several Australian destinations.
Etihad operates 24 weekly flights from Australia to Europe, the Middle East and North America through its hub in Abu Dhabi. It offers connections to and from other Australian cities and towns in conjunction with its partner Virgin Australia.
Meanwhile, Emirates and Qatar Airways said on Sunday that their flights to Australia are operating as scheduled.