Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker has spoken of the airline’s aggressive expansion plans over the next few years highlighting orders for more than 200 aircraft worth over US$30 billion.The national carrier of the State of Qatar is pursuing an ambitious growth strategy in line with the country’s dynamic economic boom where huge infrastructure development projects are fuelling the growth.
Addressing international media at Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the Middle East’s leading travel trade show held in Dubai last week, Al Baker said the airline’s aircraft orders would help facilitate the country’s economic drive forward and turn Qatar into both a leading regional and global aviation hub.
He said a new wave of aircraft deliveries begins this summer with Qatar Airways’ third Boeing 777 joining the carrier’s 62-strong fleet.
From November this year, Qatar Airways takes delivery of the first of its Long Range Boeing 777-200 aircraft capable of flying to virtually any key city in the world non-stop from Doha. The first Boeing 777-200 will be introduced on the Doha - Houston route from November 10 with a non-stop flying time of 17 hours.
With impressive outstanding orders, including 80 of Airbus’ new-generation A350s, five twin-deck A380s, 60 of Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliners and 30 Boeing 777s, Qatar Airways’ fleet expansion will take it well into the next decade.
A brand new international airport under construction in Doha will help facilitate the growth with the first phase slated to open in 2010.
Al Baker explained that Qatar Airways’ young fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft, which have an average age of just three years, will grow significantly to 70 by the end of 2008, rising further to 110 within five years. And he said that the number of global destinations in Qatar Airways’ international network, which currently stands at 82, will rise sharply over the next few years.
“Our vision at Qatar Airways is simple - to invest in, and maintain, a growing fleet of young and modern aircraft flying to key business and leisure destinations worldwide,” he said.
“Our long range Boeing 777s will open up tremendous new opportunities for us from the end of 2008 with the aircraft capable of flying to all corners of the globe non-stop and provide our customers with a unique flying experience and ultimate levels of comfort.
“Qatar’s strategic and geographical location in the heart of the Middle East presents us with excellent opportunities - but more importantly, give the travelling public from the region and around the world excellent connections via our Doha hub.”
Added Al Baker: “The new generation Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s will create even more opportunities, opening up new medium- and long-haul routes with greater operational efficiency.”
Qatar Airways currently has a diverse network of cities it serves across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Indian Subcontinent, Far East and North America.
Al Baker highlighted this year’s route expansion to include three new destinations. Having launched scheduled flights from Doha to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou at the end of March - with a fifth weekly frequency introduced only last week - Qatar Airways now operates 21 services a week across China, covering also Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Beginning June 15, Qatar Airways launches daily services between Doha and the south-west Indian coastal city of Kozhikode (formerly known as Calicut). Kozhikode will be the airline’s ninth Indian destination taking capacity across India to 58 weekly services.
And starting November 10, Qatar Airways launches its third US destination with direct non-stop flights to Houston, initially with three services a week, rising to daily in December 2008.
“This year, Qatar Airways is celebrating three exciting route launches of Guangzhou, Kozhikode and Houston, together with increased frequencies on many existing routes to give our passengers greater choice,” said Al Baker.
He also updated the media on progress of the New Doha International Airport. Reclamation work on the multi-billion dollar project has been completed as 60 per cent of the site is built on land dredged from the sea. Both runways are taking shape and terminal infrastructure is well under construction. The airport is due to open in 2010 with an initial capacity of 24 million passengers a year, rising to 50 million during the final development phase from 2015 onwards.
Qatar Airways had its biggest ever presence at ATM this year, promoting a new corporate look and featuring a brand new exhibition stand, which included a model of the New Doha International Airport and its long-haul First Class seat.
Entertainment promoting Qatar Airways’ three new routes for 2008 featured prominently on the airline’s exhibition stand throughout the four-day show taking place at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.