Qatar Airways yesterday launched flights to its fifth destination in Iraq, Sulaymaniyah, increasing the airline’s frequency across Iraq from 16 to 20 flights every week.
The new services, which will operate four times a week - Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday - non-stop from the airline’s Doha hub, brings the carrier’s global network to 129 destinations.
The launch marks the rapid expansion by Qatar Airways in Iraq since the middle of 2012 when it began flights to Erbil, followed by capital Baghdad, Najaf and Basra, according to a statement issued by the airline.
Sulaymaniyah is also the carrier’s fifth new Middle Eastern destination launched this year after Basra and Najaf (Iraq), Gassim (Saudi Arabia) and Salalah (Oman).
On its arrival, Qatar Airways’ flight QR438 was welcomed with a water salute at Sulaymaniyah International Airport and a reception presided over by local officials.
Fathi al-Shehab, Qatar Airways senior vice-president (GCC, Levant, Iran and the Indian subcontinent), led an official delegation on the flight from Doha and was welcomed at the airport by Tahir Qadir, director-general of Sulaymaniyah International Airport.
The Doha-Sulaymaniyah route is being operated by an Airbus A320 featuring 144 seats in a two-class configuration of 12 seats in business class and 132 in economy.
Selected aircraft feature seatback TV screens that provide passengers with interactive on-board entertainment, featuring a choice of more than 800 audio and video on-demand options, together with an SMS text messaging service from each seat, the statement adds.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker said he was delighted to see additional flights opening up another entry point to Iraq.
“Iraq has been on our list of expansion priorities for some time and the last 12 months have seen us move forward very quickly,” he said. “Opening up Iraq to the world with more travel options and flexibility has always been part of our general strategy to enter underserved markets and give the travelling public to and from such places the ability to travel with greater choice, bringing the world closer to them.”
The Sulaymaniyah flights connect to more than 100 destinations worldwide, including London, Paris, Singapore, Bangkok, Beijing, Johannesburg, Melbourne, New Delhi and Mumbai.
Al-Shehab acknowledged the support of the people of Sulaymaniyah and the local authorities.
“Qatar Airways is pleased to be able to support Iraq’s rebuilding and efforts with investments in new routes and local economies - and Sulaymaniyah is no exception,” he said.
“As we know, Sulaymaniyah is a huge oil and agriculture market offering ample business for those keen to take part in the opportunities that exist in Iraq’s current restructuring process. It also has huge tourist potential.”
Sulaymaniyah is an important economic and cultural centre for Iraq. It is a mountainous province and had been named the cultural capital of Kurdistan region of Iraq.