Australia and New Zealand

Non-stop flights between the UK and Australia are edging closer, but business trips Down Under still require plenty of preparation. Colin Ellson is your guide to travelling to, and doing business in, Australia and New Zealand


For a country noted for its machismo and most things male-orientated, Australia can display a surprisingly softer side to its nature. It comes in the shape of a café in the Melbourne inner suburb of Brunswick, which markets itself as an eatery “by women, for women.”

Handsome Her has three house rules. These stipulate that women have priority seating and men pay an 18% surcharge to reflect “the gender pay gap”. The third rule states “respect goes both ways.”

The café was pictured on social media worldwide, where its business concept was hotly debated: was this clever social responsibility or male discrimination? To be clear, the surcharge is optional, only applies once every four weeks, and is donated to Elizabeth Morgan House, Victoria’s main refuge for Aboriginal women’s services.

UK business visitors to Australia will find such establishments few and far between, and that pay equality is not a major item on the agenda. Rather, their focus will be on the outcome of talks between British, Australian and New Zealand ministers to determine the future terms of the UK doing business Down Under once it leaves the European Union.

As with everything Brexit, discussions are not always what they seem. The Australian premier, Malcolm Turnbull, phoned Theresa May after the vote to leave Europe to float the idea of a free trade agreement between the two countries. Then, in July this year, on a visit to Britain, he added that first he would conclude a deal with the EU

Confusingly, he added: “As Britain moves to completing its exit from the EU, we stand ready to enter into a free trade agreement with the UK as soon as Britain is able to do so. At the same time, we are looking forward to the early conclusion of a free trade agreement with the EU.”

There are barriers, and Australia has a strong bargaining position. It has a strong economy, based on structural reform and a long commodity boom, and recently turned towards the Pacific for trading relations. The UK accounts for just 4% of Australia’s total trade.

One potential focus to save the day could be the export of Australian agricultural products to the UK, a market lost when the UK joined the EU in the 1970s

Fast forward 40 years and the Department for International Trade, formerly UK Trade & Investment, is again looking at the potential Down Under and has identified a raft of opportunities for UK plc.

These include the healthcare, public transport, software, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, accountancy, security, liquid natural gas and mining sectors.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand is among the bestperforming economies in the world. Its economy is export-driven, based on pastoral, forestry and horticulture activities, along with sizeable manufacturing and service sectors and growing high-tech capabilities.

The country is also developing its tourism, film production and constructions industries. In this context, it also needs to attract designers and consulting engineers for rail and road projects.

Says UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox: “New Zealand will be the first cab off the rank when it comes to a new free trade agreement (with the UK).”

Will you be a passenger or driver when we can once again negotiate Down Under on the UK’s own terms? Exploiting the opportunities definitely requires commitment. It’s a long flight to the Antipodean markets: some 22 hours to Australia and 23 hours to its neighbour.

There are plenty of flights from the UK to Australia and New Zealand, all of which – for now – require a brief stop or change of aircraft.

‘For now’ anyway, because Qantas is all set to introduce non-stop flights from London to Perth from March next year – the first regular passenger service direct from Europe to Australia. It is scheduled to operate 14 times a week using 236-passenger Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, with a journey time of 17 hours.

The next big leap is the prospect of non-stop flights between London and Sydney, which Qantas is hoping to introduce by 2022.

British Airways: flies from London Heathrow to both Sydney and Melbourne daily via Singapore.

Qantas: flies from London Heathrow to both Sydney and Melbourne daily via Dubai, but will instead fly via Singapore from next March. At the same time, it will introduce non-stop flights from London to Perth.

Emirates: has departures from several UK cities to its Dubai hub, with connections available to Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland.

Qatar Airways: has departures from several UK cities to its Doha hub, with connections available to Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Auckland.

Etihad Airways: flies from several UK cities to Abu Dhabi, with connections to Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Brisbane.

Singapore Airlines: flies from Heathrow to Singapore four times daily and from Manchester to Singapore fives times a week. From Singapore it flies to Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney in Australia, and Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington in New Zealand.

Air New Zealand: flies daily from Heathrow to Auckland via Los Angeles.

Cathay Pacific: flies from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester to Hong Kong, with onward flights to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, Auckland and Christchurch.

Information correct at time of publication: October 2017