Qatar Airways gets first A330-200

The new A330-200 in Qatar Airways livery.

Qatar Airways has received its first A 330-200 aircraft from European maker Airbus Industrie.

The new 238-seat aircraft -- named Al Wajba - is being used on some regional as well as London routes.

Some 40 pilots from Qatar Airways have been trained by Airbus to operate the A 330-200.

The aircraft has a configuration of 12 first class, 18 business and 208 economy class seats.

It is the first of four A330-200 aircraft to join the airline. Delivery of the second A 330-200 is due on July 19. This aircraft will be used to service European destinations, including Frankfurt, Paris and Milan.

The third and fourth A 330-200s will join the fleet in March 2003 and February 2004.

The national carrier plans add a total of eight A 330-200s to its fleet.

Meanwhile, the airline's chief executive, Akbar Al Baker has said Qatar Airways plans to fly non-stop to the US from early 2004.

"We haven't taken a final decision on the US, but Qatar Airways will not be flying to North America through some other points. It will certainly be a non-stop flight from Doha," he said.

Al Baker said Qatar Airways has an ambitious expansion programme that involves fleet modernisation, addition of aircraft and network expansion.

In addition to the new A330-200 aircraft, Qatar Airways has also ordered two A380s, which will be delivered in the last quarter of 2007.

The carrier is also the first airline to take delivery of the Airbus Corporate Jetliner. The ACJ offers a more exclusive style of service to premium passengers. It features a business-like cabin with first-class seating throughout.

Al Baker said the airline's double-digit growth is set to continue over the next eight to 10 years.

The facilities at the Doha International Airport have also considerably improved after the airline took over the airport, he said.

A new $750-million airport is being built by 2006 and the current arrivals terminal is being expanded at a cost of $20 million.

The new airport will be located to the east of the current site and be ready for use before the Asian Games that Qatar will host in September 2006, Al Baker said.