Qatar Airways has reinforced its long-term commitment to growth, undeterred by the current economic climate, with ongoing investment in new aircraft, routes, infrastructure and continued environmental efforts to reduce carbon emissions.With six new routes planned across India, Australia and Europe over the next 10 months, new aircraft joining the fleet at an average rate of one a month and US$1 billion being pumped into expanding facilities at Doha International Airport, including extension of the exclusive Premium Terminal, Qatar Airways is driving forward with resilience.
Qatar Airways announced it has become the first and only Middle East carrier to join the Aviation Global Deal (AGD) Group - an industry-wide body made up of a select-few airlines which aims to help develop a global policy for tackling aviation emissions.
The airline’s fleet size of 68 aircraft will increase to more than 110 planes by 2013 and destinations served are set to rise from 84 to over 120 in the next five years. Long-term, the airline has placed orders for more than 200 aircraft worth over US$40 billion.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said the global tourism industry remained resilient despite the current economic climate and the Middle East aviation industry was the only sector experiencing significant growth with capacity and passenger figures rising.
“The state of the global aviation industry amid the current economic situation and concerns over global health concerns are understandable,” said Al Baker, addressing a packed press conference on the opening day of Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.
“But whatever is happening around the world will not affect our growth plans. We are committed and remain committed to growth and all our expansion is pressing ahead on schedule,” he stressed.
“Our expansion is growing at a remarkable pace. With new aircraft joining our fleet at an incredible rate of one a month for the foreseeable future and new routes being added to our global network, we need the airport infrastructure to be able to cope, hence the creation of a new transit terminal and more seating capacity at our exclusive Premium Terminal.”
Over the next 10 months, Qatar Airways will add six new routes to its burgeoning network - Goa and Amritsar in India; Sydney and Melbourne in Australia marking its first foray Down Under; and two further cities in Europe.
“India has been, and remains, one of our most important destinations and we are pleased to be strengthening economic and cultural ties with one of the world’s fastest growing economies,” said Al Baker, pointing out that the airline already serves nine destinations across India.
“With the growth of the Indian economy into a potential global powerhouse and Qatar’s drive to spread its economic wings globally, increasing air links with India is of paramount importance.”
“We are extremely excited to enter the new market of Australia with the addition of Sydney and Melbourne, and expanding our presence further in Europe with two more routes.”
He added that expansion of the existing airport infrastructure was key to facilitate growth and a number of initiatives were well underway ahead of the opening of the New Doha International Airport in two years’ time.
A new transit facility at Doha International Airport is due to open at the eastern apron for passengers with less than 60-minute flight connections. At present, all passengers use the main terminal for arrivals, transfers and departures, which limits the time available for travellers who have tight connections.
The number of parking bays at the eastern apron has increased to 16, while the main apron has seen the number of parking bays rise from 16 to 23.
In addition, Qatar Airways’ Premium Terminal, for exclusive use by its First and Business Class passengers, will have more than 80 per cent extra seating space following the opening next month of an extension to the dedicated Business Class section.
A new drive-through side entrance to the Premium Terminal has already opened. Expansion of the first floor Business Class lounge will see the current capacity of 320 seats increase by 250 - or 80 per cent - together with more shower rooms, buffet and dining areas. Duty free space will be almost doubled to cater for a wider range of high-end premium products ranging from fragrances, cosmetics, electronics and clothing.
Al Baker said that the airline was easily able to shift capacity around, where necessary, according to market conditions.
Since March, Qatar Airways has introduced a new daily non-stop route between Doha and Houston and increased frequency to a number of destinations across its international network, including Geneva, Lagos, Manila and Muscat.
From June 1, flights to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur will rise from seven to 10 flights a week; Algiers will be served with six weekly flights instead of the current four from October 1; and Tunis will see its weekly capacity rise from four to five flights, effective October 5.
“We operate a young and modern fleet of aircraft, fully flexible to move capacity as needed and as we receive more aircraft, we are able to increase frequency and introduce more routes to the network. This year is a year of continued frequency and route growth which remains undeterred.”
As part of the airline’s growing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) drive, the airline’s partnership with the Aviation Global Deal (AGD) Group, demonstrates the momentum that is now building to develop an industry position on how emissions from the sector could be tackled under a global deal on climate change.
The airline industry currently accounts for only two per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, yet is taking a positive stance towards reducing levels as part of its environmental commitment.
“We are delighted to have joined the Aviation Global Deal Group, working with our peers across the industry to tackle what is a serious environmental issue,” said Al Baker.
“Society worldwide is becoming ever more conscious on the impact of climate change on our daily lives. It has affected, is affecting and will continue to affect the world - and the onus is very much on the corporate world to ensure we strive towards zero carbon emissions to make the world a safer and cleaner place. “
He stressed that Qatar Airways was investing heavily in new, modern and cleaner aircraft which, he said, was a concerted effort to keep the carbon emission count to a minimum and, in doing so, reduce the impact on the environment.