SYDNEY, March 27 | Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:27pm EDT
(Reuters) - Australia's competition regulator granted conditional final approval on Wednesday to a five-year alliance between struggling national flag carrier Qantas Airways Ltd and Emirates Airline, just days before the first Qantas flight is due to transit through Dubai.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said its approval was conditional on the airlines maintaining at least their pre-alliance capacity on routes between Australia and New Zealand amid concerns about reduced competition.
The ACCC, which had already halved the desired alliance timeframe from 10 years, said it believed the tie-up as a whole would result in "material, but not substantial" public benefits through enhanced products and improved operating efficiency.
Qantas announced the Emirates deal in September, ending its 17-year alliance with British Airways, owned by IAG, which some analysts have suggested could seek a new partner such as Qatar Airways.
The arrangement, which includes switching the airline's hub to Dubai from Singapore for European flights, will enable Qantas to cut loss-making international routes and focus on its profitable domestic and budget operations.
"Qantas is an Australian icon and the future of its international business is much brighter with this partnership," Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said in a statement.
Qantas shares opened 0.9 percent higher at A$1.74 ($1.82). The stock has surged 49 percent since it announced the alliance in early September.
Qantas and Emirates have been coordinating pricing, sales and schedules since interim approval was granted by the ACCC in December.
The first flight to transit through Dubai leaves Sydney on Sunday, headed for London.
Joyce and Emirates Chief Executive Tim Clark are expected to elaborate on plans to expand the alliance when they host the official launch in Dubai on Monday.
Analysts expect the pair to explore further cost savings through catering, ground work, maintenance and procurement synergies.
The tie-up has been welcomed by the government, airports and tourism organisations but rival Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd , which operates