By Joseph Varghese/Staff Reporter
Qatar Airways yesterday announced three new destinations in Asia, Africa and North America, along with a huge increase in capacity to Pakistan as part of its aggressive growth strategy. Chief executive officer Akbar al-Baker also said the airline was planning a partnership with the Indian carrier, IndiGo.
Al-Baker was interacting with the media at Arabian Travel Market 2013, which is being held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. He said Qatar Airways would be among the top 10 airlines in the world within three years.
The Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa will become the carrier’s 20th destination on the African continent, launching on September 18, followed by Clark International Airport in the Philippines from October 28. From March 1 next year, Philadelphia will become the airline’s fifth US gateway.
Replying to a query, al-Baker said: “IndiGo is the most organised and professional airline in the Indian sector. We are planning to have discussions with the airline for a partnership.” However, he did not divulge details of the plan.
Al-Baker said Qatar Airways’ domestic service in Saudi Arabia will start as soon as it gets the required certificate. “We are in the process of getting the Airport Operations Certificate. As soon as we get it, we will start domestic operations in Saudi Arabia. Then, we will choose which airports to start the operations from. The hubs of the operations will be Riyadh and Jeddah,” he explained.
Qatar Airways is also increasing capacity to Pakistan, where it currently operates 17 flights a week across Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar. From June 1, Qatar Airways will step up frequency by 60% - to 28 flights each week. Karachi will go up from daily to double daily, Lahore from four to seven flights a week, and Peshawar securing an additional flight to three services each week.
“Yet again, Qatar Airways is bucking the trend across the industry, demonstrating that we are resilient in times of global economic austerity because while others are cutting back, we see opportunities to expand our global footprint. The three new routes we are announcing today show that we have faith in expanding our operations across continents,” said al-Baker.
On the Philadelphia route, he said: “Philadelphia is one of the major hubs of the soon-to-be-merged American Airlines/US Airways and will provide Qatar Airways’ customers with onward connections to over 100 cities across the US. With the implementation of codeshare agreements with American Airlines and JetBlue, which offer numerous connections beyond our US gateways, Qatar Airways is making big strides to strengthen its presence in the United States to ultimately give our passengers greater travel options.”
On joining the oneworld global alliance later this year, al-Baker said this would offer various travel options and benefits to passengers and to those of partner carriers in the alliance.