By Manik Mehta, Berlin
Following last year’s example of Dubai-based Emirates Airline, which introduced flights to New York, and the soon-to-be launched maiden service by Thai Airways to New York, another foreign airline has set its sight on the US market.
Qatar Airways, the national carrier of Qatar in the Arabian Gulf, is very anxious to start a service to the East Coast of the United States this year. The airline, which had actually wanted to start its service to the United States in the second half of last year, had to postpone the launch last year because “some regulatory requirements” prescribed by the US Federal Aviation Authority have to be addressed first, Sheikh Akbar Al-Baker, the chief executive of the airline, stated during a recent visit to Berlin, Germany.
Al-Baker underscored the “great importance” of the US market for his airline, saying that although the carrier had been given permission to operate a service to the US, “some minor details have still to be worked out.
“We have always wanted to operate a service to the United States. We are confident we will be able to start the US service this year,” he said, adding that, initially, the service will include one stopover but, later, it will become a nonstop service.
With the introduction of the trans-Atlantic service, Qatar Airways hopes to benefit from the robust cargo traffic expected on the route. Although cargo will be initially transported in the belly of the aircraft, the possibility of introducing a freighter service later, “cannot be ruled out.” A similar transition pattern was introduced on the airline’s flights from Doha, Qatar to Munich, Germany. After transporting cargo in the belly of passenger aircraft for some time, on April 10 the airline began operating an Airbus freighter of the A300-600 type, flying nonstop three times a week from Doha to Munich.
The Qatar Airways’ CEO stated in Berlin that it had been agreed at a recent round of bilateral consultations on landing rights between Qatar and Germany, held in Bonn, to allow the airline to operate a freighter service to Munich.
In response to a question from this correspondent at a press conference, Al- Baker told the American Journal of Transportation that Qatar Airways would also acquire three more freighters “in the course of time. The cargo volume presently handled by us is around 120,000 tons. Cargo is a very important business for us. We expect our cargo capacity to steadily increase in the future,” he said.
Under the terms of the agreement, the airline’s number of freighter flights to Germany can be increased to seven a week from winter 2006.
Klaus Scheer, the airline’s Frankfurt-based Area Manager (Germany), said that the cargo transported would be consolidated in Munich and then distributed all over Europe through other airlines or through trucks. “We are excited at the introduction of this new freighter service. We are very optimistic that it will lead to greater cargo traffic between the Gulf and Europe,” Scheer added
Qatar Airways has also been allowed to increase the number of scheduled flights between the two countries to 21 a week, which would be implemented in three phases. At present, there are 11 flights a week. .
In the first phase, the airline will be flying to a third destination in Germany this summer, and operate a total of 14 direct scheduled flights a week. For the second phase, starting this winter, the number of cities flown by Qatar Airways in Germany will increase to four, and weekly frequencies will increase to 18.
In the third and final phase, starting in the winter of 2006, Qatar Airways can increase the number of weekly flights to 21, adding a fifth German city to its network.
In addition, the Doha-Munich-Vienna route, currently operated five times a week, will be de-linked and replaced by dedicated nonstop services separately to both European cities. “By separating the Munich and Vienna services, we are able to offer nonstop flights to both cities and increase the seat capacity in