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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Qatar Airways ends Doha-to-Osaka route following landing slots row

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Qatar Airways A330-200 which serves to Doha-Osaka route
Qatar Airways A330-200 which serves to Doha-Osaka route

Qatar Airways will stop flying directly to the Japanese city of Osaka as of April 1 due to “commercial reasons,” the Gulf carrier announced yesterday.

The airline has been operating the route for more than 10 years, and currently offers daily flights.

This will be reduced to five flights a week starting Jan. 12 before being scrapped entirely in the spring.

QR802 will be the last return flight on the service when it leaves Doha’s Hamad International Airport (HIA) on March 31 at 1:40am and arrives at Osaka-Kansai airport at 4:44pm.

The last non-stop Qatar Airways flight from Osaka-Kansai will depart March 31, 2016 at 10:40 and arrive at HIA at 4:40am on April 1, 2016, the airline said in a statement.

“Affected passengers will be offered alternative travel solutions via Qatar Airways’ customer care department,” it added.

Daily direct flights to the two Tokyo airports of Narita International and Haneda International will continue, Qatar Airways said.

Slots row

Qatar’s national flag carrier declined to comment further on the issue.

Earlier this year, however, Reuters reported that the airline had been considering withdrawing its services to Japan because of industry losses that it reportedly blamed on airport restrictions.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker

At the time, the newswire quoted an unnamed source close to the airline as saying it was “in the final stages of deliberations” about whether to withdraw the three daily services.

“This is due to the restrictive policies over slot timings and runway limitations that prohibit the airline from operating at timings that provide economic benefit and optimal connectivity for passengers,” the source told Reuters.

Yet several weeks later, Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker denied that the airline was pulling out of Japan and stressed the ongoing commitment to operating its three routes.

“We are just as committed today to our Japanese routes as when we launched them. Qatar Airways continues to look forward to working together with our partners here to enhance our operations in Japan,” Gulf Times reported Al Baker as saying.

Al Baker added that Qatar Airways had transported nearly 1.5 million passengers and carried more than 40,000 tonnes of cargo to Japan since 2008.

There are approximately 1,000 Japanese citizens living in Qatar, according to a report in the Japan Times earlier this year.

The two countries have considerable economic ties, with Japan being one of Qatar’s largest LNG customers. Japanese firms have won more than $2.1 billion worth of construction contracts in Qatar over the last decade, officials said last year.

While Qatar Airways is trimming its service to Japan, the carrier continues to expand in several other countries.

That includes introducing a direct flight to Amsterdam earlier this year as well as announcing plans to roll out new routes to Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta and the British city of Birmingham in 2016.

Additionally, Qatar Airways will increase its weekly flights to Dhaka, Bangladesh, from 10 to 14 on Dec. 9.

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