Qatar’s national carrier will begin flights to Miami next June, making the Florida city the airline’s sixth destination in the USA, and its first connection to the Middle East in five years.
Qatar’s national airline currently flies to Chicago, Houston, New York and Washington D.C., with flights to its fifth destination, Philadelphia, due to begin next April, a month later than previously announced.
Qatar Airways will fly to Miami International Airport (MIA) four times a week, using a Boeing 777-200LR with 42 seats in Business and 217 seats in Economy.
Airport officials, speaking to the Miami Herald, said that the service, which they hope will eventually become daily, is the region’s first link to the Middle East since El Al cancelled a route to Tel Aviv in 2008:
“This is huge because Qatar Airways serves a part of the world, quite frankly, that we don’t have much access to,” Miami-Dade Aviation Director Emilio T. González, told the paper.
Aside from providing new travel opportunities, it’s expected that the new route will bring 536 jobs and an expected $78 million in new business revenue to the Miami area.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told the Herald that the decision to fly into Miami was motivated partly by the airline’s joining of the oneworld alliance later this month:
“Miami was a clear choice for us. It’s a large international travel market, both inbound and outbound, and Qatar Airways’ membership in Oneworld gives people in the U.S. many more options for international travel.”
Further US expansion?
Miami is an unexpected choice for Qatar Airways, which last year stated that it intended to operate flights to Atlanta, Detroit and Boston “by the early part of 2014.”
So far, none of these new routes have been confirmed, possibly due to the lengthy grounding of the 787 Dreamliner, which Al Baker had previously described as “very big problem for us.”
The issues have forced Qatar Airways to rearrange flight schedules and delay the start of some routes “in order to mitigate the serious impact.” The airline may also be awaiting the arrival of its first A380, scheduled for delivery next spring.
Meanwhile, the airline’s Gulf rivals are also eyeing new US routes. Earlier this month, Abu Dhabi-base Etihad announced plans to start flights to Los Angeles from next June, the airline’s fourth US destination, and Emirates has been in talks with Boeing about the 777X, which will be able to fly non-stop for 20 hours, increasing the Dubai-based airline’s reach even further.
The three airlines’ global expansion rate is not welcomed by everyone, particularly those working with rival airlines outside the region.
Michael Wisbrun, managing director of Amsterdam-based aviation alliance SkyTeam, told Arabian Business that he feels the three major Gulf airlines will need to focus on more niche routes in order to co-exist in the future:
“If they want to build their own global system in the Middle East and are striving to be a global entity then it seems that three of those airlines in the Middle East look like a little bit too much if you project it into the coming ten years.
But if their scope and scale is focused on their relevant role to connecting the India market with Africa, the Australian market with Europe, their position is natural and I don’t see why they couldn’t continue and be sustainable.”
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