Emirates remains the largest of the ‘Middle East 3’ by far, having had a near 20 year head start to fellow competitors Qatar Airways (QR) and Etihad Airways (EY). Qatar however, strengthened by the opening of their new state of the art Hamad International Airport base in Doha (DOH), seems to be on a roll is quickly catching up to their larger neighbors over the Persian Gulf in Dubai.
Qatar has surpassed the 100 route mark and continues to open new stations throughout the world, and in the meantime is also plugging important holes in their currently massive network. This latest route announcement goes further in marking QR as a major global player.
Qatar Airways has announced in a press conference held in Dubai at the Arabian Travel Market today that the airline will be adding a host of new routes to their growing network, starting later this year. Details are sparse at the moment in terms of operational details and aircraft deployment, but we do know the routes that will be added by the airline and the frequencies they will bw operated at.
The new routes will all originate from the airline’s Doha hub and will be flown to:
- Abidjan, Ivory Coast (5x weekly)
- Accra, Ghana (5x weekly)
- Cardiff, United Kingdom (daily)
- Chittagong, Bangladesh (daily)
- Kiev, Ukraine (5x weekly)
- Lisbon, Portugal (daily)
- Malaga, Spain (seasonal, 4x weekly)
- Mombasa, Kenya (6x weekly)
- Mykonos, Greece (seasonal, 3x weekly)
- Pattaya, Thailand (4x weekly)
- Prague, Czech Republic (daily)
- San Francisco, United States (daily)
- Las Vegas, United States (daily)
Please keep in mind that no official press release has been issued by the airline yet and that this information comes from reporters attending an event hosted by the airline at a travel expo in Dubai today. Business Traveller Middle East has thus far confirmed the information – more details will follow and we will update accordingly, so watch this space.
So most of these destinations seem to be niche holiday routes (read: low yielding) that Qatar can operate due to their flexibility of their fleet – narrowbodies such as the A320 can operate routes as far as Prague, Mombasa, Kiev, Mykonos and Chittagong which gives QR an advantage over the 777 or A380 only Emirates.
The notable additions here are San Francisco, which has long since been a gaping hole in the airline’s worldwide network, and Cardiff in the UK. It’s been long rumored that the airline was to open two new destinations in the United Kingdom, so we now have official confirmation of one of them. This is a huge boost for Cardiff as well – thus far the airport (and city) has no long haul operations, with folks over there having to do the nearly three hour schlep over to any of the London airports. It’s also a coup for Qatar Airways, who beat both Emirates and Etihad to the punch in commencing operations into the airport. Oh and finally – finally – the long rumored Las Vegas route has been officially confirmed by the airline.
Kiev is also an interesting add, given that Emirates pulled out of Ukraine due to security concerns and a hesitancy to allow their crew to layover there (before they ended Kiev EK crew had armed escort airport to airport and were not allowed to leave the crew hotel). With the space that EK left behind in the market, surely Qatar will be able to capitlize and make the destination work.
The beach destination of Pattaya is also interesting – it will most likely be tagged on to either the Yangon or Phnom Penh flights the airline operates, or perhaps even Phuket. Surely Pattaya cannot survive on its own, so it’ll be intruiging to see that Qatar does with this new route given that it will have to be operated by a widebody given the distance from Doha.
As details emerge of the nature of these new operations it will be interesting to see how Qatar intends to operate these new flights, but that’s a whole host of destinations to add to your network in a short time span. We do know that the airline is recieving a steady stream of new aircraft into their fleet through 2017 so these frames do need to be deployed somewhere, and we also know that Qatar is eager to play catch up with Emirates. This is all good news for the consumer who now have a host of new destinations they can access one stop via Doha and at rather cheap prices too.
Live in Bangkok and want a Greek beach vacation in Mykonos? It’s now one stop away. The same can be said for escaping those cold Russian winters in St Petersburg via a one stop to Pattaya. This is where the Middle East big players excel, and why the European giants are so scared of this new competition.
Do any of these new destinations that Qatar will be operating later in the year appeal to you? Will you be hopping on a QR flight any time soon?
Featured image credit: WikiCommons