Qatar Airways, which has triggered expansion plans following the illegal blockade on the country by four Arab nations, is hopeful of seeing its traffic volumes at pre-blockade levels by the end of the current financial year, said Group Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker.
“We have lost 10% of our passenger network and that much of our revenue generation due to the blockade,” al-Baker said at a media event at the Boeing production facility at Everett, Washington recently.
Asked how the blockade had impacted the national airline, al-Baker said, “Let me be very honest…yes, we are affected. However, we have triggered our expansion plans immediately, which we have initially delayed due to the aircraft delivery issues. And now with this blockade, we have capacity that has been released and now we have already started our expansion.”
Qatar Airways recently said it has a host of exciting new destinations planned for the remainder of this year and 2018, including Canberra (Australia), Chiang Mai (Thailand) and Mombasa (Kenya).
Al-Baker told Gulf Times that the air services agreement as part of the open sky policy, which is respected by both Qatar and the US, gives the national carrier Qatar Airways the right to expand in the United States.
“We have an open sky policy, which is respected by both the US and Qatar governments. It gives us the right to expand…it even gives us the right to come here with intermediate point with fifth freedom. It gives us the right to go beyond with the fifth freedom traffic, but as Qatar Airways we are interested to fly point to point. At the moment, we are not interested to come to the United States, via a third country.
“So, I don’t think there is any issue, which stops us from expanding,” al-Baker said.
A member of the oneworld global alliance, Qatar’s national carrier is one of the fastest-growing airlines operating one of the youngest fleets in the world.
Al-Baker said, “It would be remiss of me not to mention the recent illegal blockade on my country and the potential impact this could have had on our cargo operations. However, I am pleased to tell you that today; in fact, the blockade has had quite the opposite impact on our business to the one intended.”
Starting in early June emergency airlifting of food to Qatar resulted in a 160% increase in cargo business for Qatar Airways compared with the same period a year earlier.
“In early June this year, following the illegal blockade on my country, Qatar Airways Cargo immediately jumped into action, airlifting a huge number of unexpected food imports to Qatar. We are growing month-on-month and since 2015, we have been the third largest international cargo operator in the world,” al-Baker said.
“Our sights are set on number one,” al-Baker said.
Since June, al-Baker said, Qatar Airways Cargo continued to be the main provider of fresh food, medical equipment, medical supplies and many more.
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