Middle East takes off for business travellers

It's been just on seven months since Qantas and Emirates joined forces and put Dubai at the centre of the Flying Kangaroo's international network.

The familiar Singapore stopover en route to London and Frankfurt vanished. But so did the time-consuming and expensive need to back-track from London into Europe on Qantas's partner British Airways.

The most trumpeted benefit of the Qantas-Emirates alliance was that it put some European destinations – including a half-dozen in the UK – just one stop away from Emirates' hub in Dubai.

Qantas's bold move to align itself with Emirates appears to have paid off, with the airline reporting increased bookings of shared Emirates flights across Europe.

This also includes London's second airport of Gatwick, which Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has described as one of Qantas's "best performing destinations outside of London Heathrow" in terms of tickets sold.

But this unprecedented alliance between one of the world's oldest airlines and one of the newest is just one way that the the Gulf carriers are reshaping business travel for Australians.

Qatar joins Oneworld

This week sees Qatar Airways join the Oneworld airline alliance – a family to which Qantas already belongs.

As all Oneworld carriers share flights, lounges and even allow points to be 'earned and burned' on each member's frequent flyer programs, the move will see Qantas gain a second powerhouse partner from the middle east.

Qatar's membership will allow Qantas travellers to earn and use frequent flyer points on Qatar flights, enjoy access to Qatar's decidedly upscale lounges, and tap into Qatar's own network to add flexibility to their flight schedule – especially from Melbourne and Perth, which are Qatar's two Australian ports.

Qatar Airways will also open up some new routes for Qantas passengers, although many will effectively duplicate those of Emirates.

In Australia, Qatar operates daily flights from Melbourne and Perth to its home in Doha, with a swathe of onwards connections to Europe and Africa.

"Qatar is a really, really good fit for us," Oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby told High Flyer earlier this year.

"They can carry people into a lot of points in Southern Europe and Africa where we didn't have much presence before, and there are a lot of niches like that where they offer great value to flesh out our network."

Etihad: more flights, superjumbos too

The third of the Gulf giants is Etihad Airways, which is a cornerstone partner of Virgin Australia.

But outside of that alliance, Etihad is also beefing up its position in the Australian market.

The airline is tipped to begin direct flights from Perth to Abu Dhabi in February next year, adding another option for residents of the WA capital looking to fly into Europe.

Etihad will also open its own premium lounges at Sydney and Melbourne airports next year, ahead of upgrading Sydney and Melbourne flights to the airline's new Airbus A380 in late 2014.

This burst of activity by the Gulf carriers begs the question: is this a better or worse deal for Australia's business travellers?

One-stop access to most of Europe and Africa is incredibly appealing – but how does a stopover in the Middle East compared to, say Singpore or Hong Kong, fit into your plans?

And are you happy to 'plane hop' between partner airlines or do you prefer to fly with the one carrier all the way, such as Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines – or indeed Emirates or Etihad?

Is the Qantas-Emirates alliance and the rise of the Gulf carriers changing your travel habits?

David Flynn is a business travel expert and of Australian Business Traveller.

Twitter: @AusBT