Aviation

Qatar Airways adding 24 new destinations in 2017/18

Hannah Edensor

Qatar Airways has come out swinging in the face of the ban on its country, citizens and airspace from surrounding countries.

After a total of 18 destinations cut ties with Qatar, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain (read: Qatar’s surrounding airspace) over allegations they support terrorists, the national airline has decided to show everyone who’s boss.

Releasing a statement today, Qatar Airways claimed 90 per cent of its services are running within 15 minutes of their scheduled times, and that over the course of 2017 and 2018, it will take on 24 new destinations to make up for the services lost in the blockade.

“In the past week, the award-winning global airline has flown approximately 1,200 flights between Doha and its network of more than 150 destinations around the globe, with 90 per cent of those flights departing within 15 minutes of their scheduled departure time,” the airline stated.

“In the coming months, that network will continue to grow.”

The announcement added, “Yesterday, the airline launched direct service to Dublin, Republic of Ireland. Qatar Airways’ service to Nice, France, will commence on 4 July, and flights to Skopje, Republic of Macedonia, on 17 July.

“Other new destinations planned for the remainder of this year and 2018 include Las Vegas (USA), Canberra (Australia), Douala (Cameroon), Libreville (Gabon), Medan (Indonesia), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Santiago (Chile) and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), as well as many others.

“Earlier this week the airline released its annual report for the fiscal year 2017, revealing a net profit of $541 million, a 21.7 per cent year-on-year increase. The results also show an annual revenue increase of 10.4 per cent.”

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al-Baker condemned the ban as “illegal”, claiming while it does have the potential to hurt the airline’s bottom line, it will also hurt competitors of Etihad, Emirates, and flyDubai, all of whom have ceased flights into Doha.

The bans have resulted in the axing of about 100 flights a day.

Currently, an international aviation law is the only thing keeping Qatar Airways in action, stipulating it can fly over Bahrain’s airspace to continue its services, albeit using a single path that gives the planes quick access to Iranian airspace.

“Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE have committed under the agreement to permit scheduled flights from the State of Qatar to overfly their airspace,” said CAPA – Center for Aviation, per news.com.au.

In today’s statement, Al-Baker said, “Qatar Airways’ global operations continue to run smoothly, with the vast majority of our network unaffected by the current circumstances.

“Our focus is on supporting any passengers impacted by the current situation and ensuring that we continue to deliver our award-winning service.

“Our network expansion continues with two new destinations launching in the next month. As far as we are concerned, it is business as usual.”

He added, “This blockade unprecedented, and it is in direct contradiction to the convention that guarantees rights to civil overflight.

“We call upon the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to declare this an illegal act.

“We are not a political body, we are an airline, and this blockade has stripped us of the rights which are guaranteed to us.”

In light of the blockade, the airline has significantly increased the operations of its global call centre and social media to ensure concerned customers aren’t left in the lurch, and has even extended its commercial policy to ensure greater flexibility for refunds and rebooking for any passengers whose flight is impacted by the recent travel bans.

The airline has also introduced new functionality on Facebook to provide customers with flexible call-back options.

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