Qatar Airways’ entry into two African cities this week marks the first of potentially more route launches on the Continent as the airline’s CEO spelled out a commitment to grow its regional operations.
The Libyan port city of Benghazi and Ugandan city of Entebbe have joined Doha-based Qatar Airways’ global network taking the carrier’s African portfolio to 16 destinations. In addition to the passenger flights launched to Uganda yesterday, Qatar Airways also began the first of twice-weekly dedicated freighter services to Entebbe.
With the airline now serving more than 100 destinations globally, the African component represents a sizeable figure and is set to grow even further, said Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker.
Speaking to media at a press conference in the Ugandan capital Kampala today, Al Baker said: “Two route launches within two days on this diverse Continent is significant as the last time we made a foray into Africa was four years ago when we began services to Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam.
“So far this year we have ventured into 14 new markets, launching flights to business and leisure destinations around the world at an average rate of more than one a month. Africa has been our focus this month with start-ups to both Benghazi and Entebbe and we look forward to even more over time.
“It’s premature to say where we plan to operate as we don’t want to give heads up to the competition, but there are plenty of opportunities across Africa, which remains largely underserved by international airlines.”
Al Baker stressed the importance of entering markets for the long-term, saying Qatar Airways was not in the business of moving into new territory and withdrawing, instead committing and offering convenient and efficient travel options for business and leisure passengers year-round.
“Here in Uganda, with our new daily non-stop flights to our Doha hub, we are committed to this market long term and look forward to offering the travelling public the high levels of service that they fully deserve. Since announcing our Uganda flights six months ago, we have received positive feedback from the travel trade and the business community.”
The daily Entebbe operation provides a non-stop link to the State of Qatar in the Arabian Gulf with excellent onward connections to a vast array of destinations across the Middle East, Europe and Asia Pacific.
With Qatar Airways now operating 35 passenger flights a week between Doha and East Africa – Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania – Qatar Airways has a formidable presence in the region.
In addition, Qatar Airways Cargo, the airline’s freighter arm, operates dedicated flights to Entebbe twice-weekly using an Airbus A300 aircraft, transporting a variety of goods, including produce and flowers to the Ugandan gateway.
“Qatar Airways has been growing its cargo operations gradually, and launching a dedicated freighter route to coincide with the start of the airline’s commercial passenger service signals what promises to be a fruitful air link between Qatar and Uganda,” said Al Baker.
In addition to the route launch, an interline partnership was recently announced between the airline and Tanzania’s largest carrier, Precision Air. The agreement gives passengers the option to purchase a single itinerary to combine flights on both carriers’ networks, offering the convenience of one-stop ticketing and baggage check-in.
Broadening the ties between the Doha-based carrier and East Africa, the new Precision Air partnership will provide Qatar Airways’ global passenger base with the option to connect seamlessly to a wide range of regional cities, including Moroni, Zanzibar, Mombasa, Arusha, Kigoma, Shinyanga, Musoma and Tabora.
Qatar Airways, recently named Airline of the Year 2011 by industry audit Skytrax, is the only Five Star-ranked carrier to operate scheduled flights to Entebbe. The airline’s competitive onboard product focuses on comfort, fine cuisine, the latest inflight audio and video entertainment, award-winning service and an aircraft fleet that is young, modern, averaging less than four years old.
By 2013, Qatar Airways plans to serve more than 120 key business and leisure destinations worldwide with a fleet of over 120 aircraft. Today, the airline’s fleet of over 100 aircraft flies to more than 100 destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.
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