ITB Berlin, GERMANY – Qatar Airways left yet another positive mark at this year’s ITB Berlin travel show with a spectacular route expansion announcement, together with eye-catching entertainment promoting its new routes and the global debut of its new fully flat long-haul Business Class seats.
Amid a climate of global economic turmoil, Qatar Airways demonstrated its commitment to travel – the world’s largest industry – and to the travelling public by announcing six new routes for 2009.
The addition of Australia – Sydney and Melbourne – together with further expansion in India with Goa and Amritsar coming online, was reflected by exciting entertainment from Down Under, India and America during the five-day exhibition, which is billed as the world’s largest travel fair.
Show-stopping dance troupes on Qatar Airways’ stand wooed international trade visitors and the general public. A first glimpse of Qatar Airways’ ITB presence was a huge billboard featuring a cabin crew image welcoming visitors at the main entrance of the fairground.
Making its exhibition debut was Qatar Airways’ brand-new Boeing 777 fully flat Business Class seat-cum-bed. Featuring a pitch of 78 inches, it is easily seen as among the biggest business seats in the air today, offering passengers unprecedented levels of space and comfort.
The seats are currently deployed across Qatar Airways’ eight Boeing 777s and will soon be featured on the forthcoming non-stop Doha – Houston route linking the world’s energy capitals from March 30.
Qatar Airways also unveiled plans to widen its European presence with two new, as yet unnamed routes.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker was in buoyant mood during the show, providing an upbeat outlook on the world’s economy with an announcement of route expansion and frequency increases to give passengers more choice, flexibility and convenience.
Media interest at Qatar Airways’ opening day press conference was exceptional as more than 200 journalists heard about the airline’s robust and continuous expansion first hand in the German capital.
Asked how the airline was able to expand in these difficult times, Al Baker said: “The beauty of manoeuvering through this crisis lies in serving each of our 83 destinations with the appropriate aircraft type to ensure that capacity is perfectly tailored to demand. Qatar Airways, as a modern and highly flexible airline, rapidly adapts to changing market conditions and has been highly successful with this strategy and approach.”
“With our big announcement to not just spread our Five Star wings to a new continent of Australasia, but also to four new destinations in India and Europe, this news has made waves internationally and has received great response by our business partners and the overall public.”
He said despite the current economic crisis, Qatar Airways was very satisfied with load factors and was poised to continue growing in line with its long-term strategy. Passenger numbers, he said, were still on target to rise to up to 15 million passengers during the next financial year. He stressed this remained consistent with the 35 per cent annual growth witnessed by the airline since launching in 1997 with no withdrawal from any markets in good or bad times.
Al Baker added that the airline was committed to its existing route structure, helping contribute to economies, including the two powerhouses of India and China, which he had great confidence in.
Going forward, Al Baker spoke of progress of construction work at the New Doha International Airport which, at a cost of US$9 billion, is set to open in 2012 with an initial capacity of 24 million passengers a year.
He said the new ‘greenfield’ airport would be a benchmark setting international standards offering an industry-beating 30-minute minimum connecting time between flights. As construction is ongoing, expansion of the existing airport in Doha would continue unhindered, he said, with more than US$1 billion being pumped into upgrades and new facilities over the last three years.
“Without this continued investment, we would lose more revenue than the amount spent on upgrading the facilities,” said Al Baker.
The airline’s expansion is fuelled by the State of Qatar’s ongoing economic boom and its strong economy, which is forecast to maintain nine percent growth in 2009. Huge infrastructure developments in the oil and gas industry, tourism and the transport sector, including the new airport, are all part of the country’s long-term vision to grow.
On the issue of competition between the Gulf carriers, he stressed this was healthy and that Qatar Airways strived on it as competition enhanced service levels. In line with competition, however, he warned of the protectionist attitude of some European governments, which was preventing Qatar Airways from expanding in these markets.
Qatar Airways, he said, was keen to fly to many destinations, but was being prevented from doing so because of restrictive government traffic rights. Consumers must have choice and yet Qatar Airways is unable to provide that choice due to protectionism, he stressed.
Qatar Airways currently operates a modern fleet of 68Airbus and Boeing aircraft to 83 diverse business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Far East and North America.
The Doha-based carrier will have a fleet of 110 aircraft by 2013 – almost double the existing size. The airline has ordered 80 Airbus A350s, 60 Boeing 787s and 32 Boeing 777s, with deliveries of the latter having started in November 2007. The airline is one of the customers of the twin-deck Airbus A380 ‘super jumbos’ with five on order and scheduled for delivery from 2012. At the Farnborough Air Show in 2008, the airline also ordered six Airbus A321s. Qatar Airways is due to move to the New Doha International Airport in 2012 when the first phase of the new facility is scheduled to open. For more information, visit www.ndiaproject.com
Qatar Airways is one of only six airlines in the world with a Five Star ranking for service and excellence awarded by Skytrax, the independent aviation industry monitoring agency. Skytrax also named Qatar Airways’ cabin crew as Best in the Middle East for the sixth year running in 2008 and the airline was voted Best in the Middle East for the third year in a row following a survey of more than 15 million passengers worldwide. For more information, log onto www.qatarairways.com
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