Qatar Airways marked yet another route milestone yesterday with the official launch of scheduled passenger flights to Chicago – its fifth North American destination.
Initially starting as a thrice-weekly service, the Doha-based airline will enhance capacity on the non-stop Chicago route to a daily operation from June 15.
The addition of Chicago takes the airline’s global network to 126 diverse destinations spanning six continents, covering a wide range of destinations in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.
Following the inaugural flight and airport ceremony at Chicago O’Hare International Airport yesterday, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker welcomed US-based and international journalists to a Press Conference today to discuss the new route and the airline’s increasingly pivotal role in the global aviation industry.
“We are looking forward to connecting the Midwest to the Middle East and beyond,” said Al Baker .
“With the Chicago route going daily from June 15 and our presence here for more than two years through dedicated freighter services, this clearly demonstrates Qatar Airways’ commitment to this key city.
“The economic benefits will extend to key regional industries as well – engineering, education, and commodities trading in particular. Many travellers and businesses will benefit from additional access to and from the Middle East.”
He added: “We anticipate a large travel influx not just from the energy community, but also from construction, the arts, finance and technology to name a few.
“Qatar Airways has been voted the best airline for two years running and we are eager to introduce this city to our award-winning business, actively engaging with local leaders and deserving community projects, strengthening relationships and the bond between Chicago and Doha.”
The United States remains a focal point for the airline, with Al Baker hinting at the possibility of additional routes within the country over the next few years.
He said the airline launched its North American operations in the summer of 2007 with flights to New York and Washington DC, followed by Houston, Montreal and now, Chicago with a total of 27 scheduled flights each week to five gateways across the region.
He spoke of two key developments this year that will further raise the carrier’s profile in the United States – a new code share agreement started with American Airlines will strengthen Qatar Airways’ position in the United States, in particular Chicago, one of its US partner’s hubs, together with membership of the oneworld global airline alliance.
“With the new American Airlines code share, we are able to connect more passengers with seamless access through Chicago. And later this year, we hope to officially become a member of the oneworld alliance that will provide Qatar Airways with a stronger network around the world, including the vitally important US market.”
Media also heard of the airline’s aggressive expansion so far this year that has seen Chicago joined by new additions to Qatar Airways’ global map – namely, Phnom Penh in Cambodia, the Iraqi city of Najaf, and Gassim in Saudi Arabia. Over the next few months, Qatar Airways will launch flights to Salalah in Oman, Chengdu in China and the Iraqi cities of Basra and Sulaymaniyah.
With the opening of a brand new gateway in Doha – Hamad International Airport – in phases this year to cope with the rapid expansion of the national airline, Qatar Airways is gearing up for another busy period of operations during 2013.
Qatar Airways’ Doha – Chicago route is being operated with a Boeing 777-300 Extended Range aircraft in a two-class configuration of 293 seats in Economy Class and 42 in Business. The aircraft offers seatback TV screens providing passengers with the next generation interactive onboard entertainment system and a choice of more than 1,000 audio and video on demand options.
Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in just 16 years of operations, currently flying a modern fleet of 122 aircraft to 126 key business and leisure destinations worldwide.