As it adds new direct flights and increases its capacity in Eastern Europe, Qatar’s national airline is also looking to introduce two new ultra-long haul routes to its rapidly growing network, Qatar Airways CEO has reportedly said.
Speaking at last weekend’s Bahrain Air Show, Al Baker did not give a timeline for introducing the new routes.
Currently, Qatar Airways customers travelling to Chile must change planes, often in Miami, Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires. Similarly, passengers flying from Doha to Auckland aboard Qatar Airways typically have a layover in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong or Perth, Australia.
In September, New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser visited Qatar and signed an open skies agreement that he said would pave the way for flights between the two countries:
“The opportunity now exists for Qatar Airways to serve New Zealand and this would be a welcome development,” he said in a statement released at the time.
While any direct flights would be welcomed by New Zealand citizens living in Qatar, as well as residents looking to travel there for business or holidays, Groser added that he hoped Doha would be a gateway connecting New Zealand with Europe, Africa and the broader Middle East.
Groser’s trip to Qatar came several weeks before the Gulf state signed a new aviation agreement with the Australian government that was quickly followed by Qatar Airways announcing an increase in flights to the country.
Qatar Airways grew by 25 percent last year, according to Al Baker, and is poised to dramatically increase its capacity again in 2016.
The airline already launched direct flights to Los Angeles earlier this month and plans to start flying to Boston and Atlanta later this year.
Additionally, the carrier said yesterday it would start flying to the Armenian capital of Yerevan four times a week starting May 15.
And today Qatar Airways announced it would launch direct flights to Belgrade, Serbia, in March as well as increasing frequency to several other Eastern European destinations:
- Flights to Zagreb, Croatia are increasing to 10 a week, up from daily service, starting April 3;
- Service to Budapest, Hungary, is also increasing from daily service to 10 times a week, beginning July 3; and
- Flights to Baku, Azerbaijan, are increasing from a daily service to 11 times a week, starting on March 27.
Meanwhile, the airline is also increasing its capacity on two other routes by using larger planes.
One of the two daily flights to Moscow will now use a Boeing 787, rather than an Airbus A320. And Qatar Airways will now use an Airbus A330, rather than the A320, to fly to Warsaw, Poland.
The latest expansion comes amid fresh delivery delays of the newest aircraft model to join Qatar Airways’ fleet.
Bloomberg cited Al Baker as saying the carrier would not receive its first A320neo for several more months. The airline said as recently as mid-December that it expected to take delivery of its first A320neo by the end of 2015.
Al Baker reportedly said there were issues with the performance of the plane’s engines in the high temperatures that Qatar experiences:
“We need an engine that will withstand this rigorous climate conditions,” Al Baker was quoted as saying, adding “It’s extremely important for us to take delivery of this airplane because we’re short of capacity.”
The A320neo’s new Pratt & Whitney engines help reduce the plane’s fuel consumption by approximately 15 percent, according to manufacturer Airbus.