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Further Boost For Qatar Airways’ European Expansion

The September 14 start-up of scheduled flights to Bulgaria’s capital city complements the airline’s earlier services to neighbouring Bucharest and Budapest with the Gulf carrier now flying to three strategic cities in this emerging part of Europe.

Highly underserved by long-haul international airlines, the central eastern European countries of Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania have created a formidable business opportunity for Qatar Airways in the space of just nine months.

With four-flights-a-week operating between Doha and Sofia via Bucharest, and daily services linking the Qatari capital with Budapest, the award-winning airline now flies 10-times-a-week to three key cities within the region.

The Romanian capital Bucharest was previously tagged with the airline’s Budapest services at the time of launch in January, but has now been switched to link-up with Sofia. The Doha – Budapest flights now operate non-stop.

Qatar Airways now flies to 26 destinations across Europe following the addition of the dynamic Balkan metropolis to its ever-growing global network spanning over 100 destinations worldwide. Sofia also becomes the fifth European route launched by Qatar Airways this year – together with Bucharest and Budapest, the others being Stuttgart and Venice. The European expansion drive continues next month with the launch of flights to the Norwegian capital Oslo.

Speaking at a press conference in the Bulgarian capital today, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said that the airline had undergone phenomenal expansion since the beginning of the year with 10 new destinations covering vibrant underserved markets in Europe, Middle East, India and Canada.

Highlighting the latest route launch, he said: “Direct Qatar Airways’ flights from Sofia to Doha and beyond will give Bulgarian businesses and tourists the ideal gateway into key markets of eastbound destinations that we serve, offering convenient connections to numerous destinations including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, India, Thailand, China and Australia.

“And travellers to Bulgaria will be given easier access to this market, which holds considerable potential for businesses, as well as tourism that Qatar Airways looks forward to tap into.

“Our rapid footprint in this part of Europe this year has given travellers to and from Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, much improved travel options to a wider market, avoiding the need to travel through congested European airports to get to their final decision.

“It has been a conscious decision to open up routes in central eastern Europe, with the latest addition of Bulgaria demonstrating our commitment to the region which we strongly believe has great potential and will remain an important part of Qatar Airways’ growth strategy going forward.”

Bulgaria is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the region, offering a wide range of activities for visitors to experience, ranging from cultural and historical sightseeing, to the stunning beach hotels of the Black Sea and skiing facilities in the picturesque Pirin Mountains. The country has also been a popular health resort spot since Roman times due to the country’s abundance in healing mineral springs, of which there are over 600.

Since the route was announced in March, Qatar Airways has received positive response from the Bulgarian travel trade and corporate market. The fact that Qatar Airways’ outstanding position in the market as the only Gulf carrier and world’s best airline serving Sofia, is testimony to the importance of a world-class carrier flying to Bulgarian shores.

Qatar Airways operates a modern Airbus A320 featuring 12 seats in Business Class and 132 seats in Economy on the Sofia – Doha route. Passengers are offered seatback TV screens in all classes with the next generation interactive onboard entertainment system featuring a choice of more than 700 audio and video on demand options. Furthermore, the aircraft is equipped with a special OnAir service allowing passengers to use their mobile phones onboard for SMS, MMS messaging and emails.

Qatar Airways prides itself on its Five Star ranking for service and excellence, as awarded by the Skytrax. The airline’s competitive product focuses on comfort, fine onboard cuisine, the latest in-flight entertainment, award-winning in-flight service and a fleet of aircraft that is young and modern averaging just less than four years old.

By 2013, Qatar Airways plans to serve more than 120 key business and leisure destinations worldwide with a fleet of over 120 aircraft. Today, the airline’s fleet stands at 98 aircraft, flying to more than 100 destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.—

The DOHA – SOFIA schedules with effect from 14th September 2011 are:

Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays

Depart Doha  QR943 at 0825 hrs, arrive Sofia at 1530 hrs
Depart Sofia  QR944 at 1725 hrs, arrive Doha at 2355 hrs

Qatar Airways has orders worth over US$ 40 billion for more than 200 aircraft, including Boeing 787s, 777s, Airbus A350s, A380s, A320 Family of aircraft and Bombardier corporate jets. The rapid expansion of Qatar Airways prompted the State of Qatar to embark on one of its biggest projects – the construction of a brand new international airport in Doha, which is scheduled to open in 2012. For more information on Qatar Airways, visit www.qatarairways.com.

Skytrax is the only global independent passenger survey monitoring airline standards and is considered the ultimate benchmark for excellence in the airline industry. In addition to winning Skytrax’s prestigious Airline of the Year award during the summer, Qatar Airways was named Best Airline in the Middle East for the sixth year in a row, and its Premium Terminal at Doha International Airport was named Best First Class Airline Lounge.

Qatar Airways Group Corporate Communications Department
Tel: +974 44496956, Fax: +974 44620132
E-mail: qrmedia@qatarairways.com.qa
Website: www.qatarairways.com

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