Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker held talks with His Royal Highness Prince Fahad bin Abdullah Al Saud to discuss opportunities arising from the Kingdom’s newly-launched aviation liberalisation policy.
With a market that is underserved and keen for greater domestic air services, Al Baker said the Kingdom represented a key growth area.
However, during the meeting, he expressed particular concern over excessive fuel charges in the Kingdom and the government’s policy of controlling domestic air fares which, he said, were not in the interests of the travelling public nor airline operators.
Al Baker said such factors were detrimental to airlines as fuel represented a major cost of operations.
Capping airfares, he said will never allow any airline to operate commercially in the Kingdom, citing the demise of domestic carrier Sama Airlines due to such measures. He stressed that other airlines operating domestic flights within Saudi Arabia were facing the same problem of rising costs, pointing out these needed to be seriously addressed.
Al Baker said Qatar Airways was keen to invest in the Saudi domestic aviation market, but this was dependent on a fundamental rethink by the government of certain factors which needed to be tackled.
Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in just 15 years of operation, currently operating a modern fleet of 109 aircraft to 117 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America from its Doha hub.
Since the beginning of the year, Qatar Airways has launched flights to Baku (Azerbaijan); Tbilisi (Georgia); Kigali (Rwanda); Zagreb (Croatia), Erbil (Iraq), Baghdad (Iraq) and Perth (Australia), with many more new destinations planned during 2012.
Over the next few months, Qatar Airways launches services to a diverse portfolio of new routes, including Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (July 25); Mombasa, Kenya (August 15); Yangon, Myanmar (October 3); Maputo, Mozambique (October 31); and a date yet-to-be-announced to the Serbian capital Belgrade.
Qatar Airways has orders worth over US$50 billion for more than 250 aircraft, including Boeing 787s, 777s, Airbus A350s, A380s and A320 Family of aircraft. 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 2011 award last 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 Premium Service Airport for the second consecutive year in 2012.