Two Airbus A380 superjumbos - one from Qantas and the other Emirates Airline - flew in formation over Sydney Harbour Bridge yesterday to mark the launch of the airlines' new alliance.
Shortly after the flypast, the first Qantas A380 departed Sydney for Dubai International Airport, which under the new agreement will take over the role as Qantas's hub for European flights, from Singapore's Changi Airport.
Speaking shortly after the flight departed, the Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the airline had experienced a six-fold increase in bookings to Europe on the joint network in the first nine weeks of sales, compared with the same period last year.
"The new network will cut average journey times by more than two hours from Melbourne and Sydney to the top 10 destinations in Europe," Mr Joyce said. "This is one of the most important strategic initiatives that we will ever do ... and will help turn around the performance of Qantas's international operations."
Mr Joyce has pledged to return Qantas's international business to profit after the company last year reported its first annual loss since a 1995 stock market listing.
Passengers will be able to fly to 65 international destinations with one stop in Dubai, compared with the previous five one-stop destinations in Europe under Qantas's previous alliance with British Airways.
Emirates' passengers will gain access to Qantas's extensive network across Australia.
The two airlines will begin aligning fares over the next week as part of the tie-up.
The Emirates president Tim Clark said it had been a "Herculean task" bringing the two airlines together in an alliance over the past few months.
Last week, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission gave its final approval for the alliance. The tie-up will be worth about US$94 million (Dh345.3m) a year before tax to Qantas, as it fills more seats on combined flights to Europe, New Zealand and South East Asia and drops the unprofitable Frankfurt service, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs.
"Qantas could not continue to be exactly as it has in the past," said the Australian federal transport minister Anthony Albanese. "We need partnerships which focus on the global aviation industry. Qantas has forged a partnership with a quality airline."