ITB Exclusive: Big News from Qatar Airways

Mr.Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways chose the 2004 ITB Berlin travel exhibition to announce news of the continued success and growth of his company. The confidence he has in his product is quickly apparent. “We are a young airline who have taken the world by storm in the last seven years, to become one of the best if not the best airline in the world”, he commented. It is hard to argue with a company that has simply gone from strength to strength during a period where many others have suffered.

Mr.Akbar Al Baker began by announcing that Qatar Airways will significantly increase the airlines frequencies to Germany and other European destinations this year, as it prepares to start a new non-stop service in July. The airline has recently increased combined frequencies to Frankfurt and Munich by four flights a week, to meet the rising demand from the German market for Qatar Airways services.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to the German market we have recently added two additional frequencies to each of our services to Munich and Frankfurt,” said Mr.Al Baker.

“This means we’re now flying to Munich five times a week and to Frankfurt six times per week, connecting Germany 11 times per week.

“We have also added frequencies to other destinations in our growing European network.

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“We have recently increased our frequencies to Vienna by two flights per week, flying five times each week to the Austrian capital.

“Qatar Airways will also be adding an additional frequency to Paris, so that we offer a daily non-stop flight from June 1st.

“From July 8, we will also be starting our non-stop service to Zurich. This will be a four-times a week service that will be operated with our long range A319, connecting the people of Switzerland with the rest of our network.

“With the introduction of new frequencies we will be touching down at European destinations nearly 50 times a week. After adding Zurich to our route network, we will be flying to European cities 53 times per week,” said Mr.Al Baker.

Explaining the reason for launching additional flights, Al Baker said the new frequencies and the addition of Zurich to the airline’s growing network, was in direct response to the demand that Qatar Airways has been receiving from Europe for connections to the Far East, the Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East.

“Both the German and the Austrian destinations have also proved very popular with passengers from the Far East and the Middle East, who visit European cities for both pleasure and business,” said Mr.Al Baker.

“We’re also seeing a strong trend of more and more Europeans visiting Qatar. They are now realising that Qatar is an exciting destination in its own right,” he said.

The launch of the new frequencies coincides with Qatar Airways taking delivery of a $5.1 billion order for 34 modern Airbus aircraft during the next several years. In this year alone, the airline will take delivery of 13 new Airbus aircraft which will swell it all-Airbus fleet to 38 by the year end.

“Receiving 13 new aircraft this year, a virtually unprecedented feat for an airline of our size, means that we can increase frequencies to our existing destinations and start new destinations,” Al Baker said.

“We have already announced the new destinations of Luxor, Istanbul, Zurich and Kabul for this year, and are looking into developing more new routes in the near future.

“It is our ambition to be the world’s best airline, and to provide the best possible service to all our passengers. Although we are rapidly expanding in order to provide more services, we are not losing sight of our vision to provide a superior service, consistently,”
Mr Al Baker added.

In addition to the news of further growth Mr.Al Baker took the time to officially announce an extension to Qatar Airway’s codeshare with Lufthansa. The deal has been done to offer Lufthansa customers direct routes from Germany to Qatar and Qatar Airways customers’ daily access to Switzerland.

Mr.Al Baker explained that the new extended agreement between the two airlines - which came into effect on March1 - will mean:

- Lufthansa will codeshare on Qatar Airways’ Munich-Doha and Frankfurt-Doha flights
- Qatar Airways will codeshare on Lufthansa flights between Munich-Geneva and Frankfurt -Geneva
- Qatar Airways will codeshare on Lufthansa flights between Frankfurt-Zurich

The new agreement extends a present and long-standing agreement for Qatar Airways codesharing on Lufthansa flights between Munich ands Zurich.

“It gives me great pleasure to announce this new extended codeshare agreement which will deliver real benefits to passengers of both Lufthansa and Qatar Airways,” said Mr Al Baker.

“This codeshare agreement builds on the strong business relationship that we’ve established with Lufthansa.

“This extended agreement means that we can now offer our passengers daily access to and from the Swiss cities of Zurich and Geneva via our German destinations of Frankfurt and Munich.

“For Lufthansa passengers, it means they now have direct access to Qatar, in the heart of the Arabian Gulf on one of the world’s fastest growing airlines which is also widely acclaimed for its quality service.

“Passengers who are members of Qatar Airways’ Privilege Club and Lufthansa Miles and More Programmes will also continue to enjoy reciprocal earn and burn points as part of this agreement.

“The extension of this codeshare agreement with Lufthansa represents our continued efforts to build long lasting strategic alliances with other airlines.

“The fact that Qatar Airways was the first airline to pass IATA’s new IAOSA safety audit last year, our growing route network and out emphasis on quality service continues to make Qatar Airway’s an attractive codeshare partner,” said Mr.Al Baker.

Qatar Airways presently has codeshare agreements with Lufthansa, Alitalia, Malaysian, Philippine Airlines, Garuda and Biman.

In answering questions Mr.Al Baker put forward a strong vision of the future for Qatar Airways. He is not overly concerned about competition from low-cost airlines in the middle-east because he doesn’t think the industry there supports the low-cost business model. Qatar Airways will not be joining an airline alliance in the near future but with an extensive codeshare network, establishing confidence in and with partners, the potential is always there. Two un-named American carriers have expressed codeshare interest already and Mr.Al Baker feels Qatar Airways are, “teaching the big airlines how to make money”.

The next decade will see more aircraft and as many as 70 -75 destinations. For an airline that is currently growing at twice the rate of Emirates, Qatar Airways are happy “to keep on surprising our competitors”.
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