‘Unprecedented expansion’


HAVING launched 13 new routes in 2005, Qatar Airways started off 2006 by naming its 70th destination and the first new route of the year: it will launch daily flights to Hong Kong on March 26.

It plans to fly to 80 destinations worldwide by the end of 2006. “It is one of the fastest-growing carriers in the world with unprecedented expansion, averaging 40 per cent year on year that industry peers can only admire with envy,” said CEO Akbar Al Baker. “From only four aircraft in 1997, the airline grew to a fleet size of 28 aircraft by the end of 2003, and 42 by December 2005. By 2015, the fleet size will almost triple to 110.”
In shared government and private ownership, Qatar Airways currently operates a fleet of 43 aircraft, including one dedicated cargo carrier, all with an average age of less than three years. It recently announced plans to acquire up to 80 aircraft comprising 60 of the new generation Airbus A350s and 20 Boeing 777s, worth a total $15.2 billion. It is also a launch customer for the twin-deck Airbus A380 super jumbos with four aircraft on order and scheduled for delivery from 2009, to coincide with the opening of the New Doha International Airport.
Last year saw the network expand to include Alexandria, Algiers, Athens, Berlin, Cape Town, Delhi, Johannesburg, Madrid, Mashad, Nairobi, Osaka, Tunis and Yangon.  Existing routes also saw an increase in frequency to cope with growing demand. In addition to Hong Kong, one of this year’s new destinations is scheduled to be Australia (announced last year) and the airline has already appointed a manager for its US operations.
When Berlin joined the network in mid December 2005, it was the third German destination for the carrier. Al Baker said: “With our four new flights to Berlin, our total capacity to Germany stands at 16 scheduled services a week. We will be introducing passenger services to new German destinations within the next 16 months.”
While construction of the New Doha International Airport (NDIA) began in January 2005; the airline is also on course to build its own dedicated terminal for Business and First Class passengers at Doha International airport, which it manages.
Qatar Airways is one of four airlines in the world ranked Five Star by Skytrax, the independent aviation industry monitoring agency.
With Qatar set to host the 15th Asian Games – Doha 2006 – at the end of this year, eight of the airline’s planes will be carrying the livery of the Games. The new livery features distinctive vibrant colours and imagery, created specifically for the Doha 2006 Games, which will be difficult to miss at any of the destinations by Qatar Airways. There are two distinct designs created on the new A330s, with the last delivery scheduled for May. Akbar Al Baker describes the new branded aircraft as: “Flying icons that will raise awareness of Qatar and the feast of sporting entertainment in store when they take to the skies around the world over the next 15 months.”
Electronic ticketing is on the immediate horizon and the airline’s state of the art cargo automated system offers web-based tracking and tracing, with an online freight booking engine being introduced shortly. Since both Doha International Airport and its cargo warehouse are operated by Qatar Aviation, sister company to Qatar Airways Cargo, the close relationship means that transit times are the fastest in the business, just 90 minutes in many cases.