Middle Eastern carrier Emirates are the lead contender for direct flights between Cairns and Dubai, with billionaire Ghassan Aboud today backing the airline as the ideal carrier to launch the new service.
Speculation has been mounting for weeks in the tourism industry that an announcement on a new Emirates service into Cairns is imminent. The airline currently operates around 20 weekly flights at Brisbane Airport, with one tourism industry insider suggesting the Cairns service could involve a triangulated route between Dubai, Brisbane and Cairns.
Mr Aboud told TropicNow: "I fully back more direct flights into Cairns and would love to see Emirates fly here – this would open up many more markets for Cairns – from Europe, the Middle East and beyond," he said.
"We need to work on more positive partnerships for the good of Cairns – partnerships with the airport, with airlines and with the government to see this happen."
Emirates already has strong ties with Cairns Airport, with the company's retail arm Emirates Leisure Retail Australia launching new food and beverage outlets at both the domestic and international terminals this year.
But TropicNow understands any deal for direct flights is still some way off. The airline is seeking a significant incentive package to make the route viable, with a consortium of stakeholders including the Queensland Government, tourism bodies, Cairns Regional Council and Cairns Airport forced to consider a higher level of investment than their initial offers.
It is understood potential deals with other Middle Eastern carriers Qatar Airways and Etihad are no longer on the table. All three Middle Eastern carriers were lobbied in a brief trade mission to Dubai last year by Mayor Bob Manning, Crystalbrook Collection CEO Mark Davie and representatives from Tourism and Events Queensland and Cairns Airport last year.
Emirates is the Middle East's biggest carrier and operates around 3600 flights per week out of Dubai International Airport.