Qatar Airways takes off

24 May 2002

The number of passengers carried by Qatar Airwayswill rise by 40 per cent to 2.4 million in 2002, according to the airline's chief executive officer, Akbar al-Baker. This will follow a 31 per cent increase in passenger numbers to 1.6 million in 2001 which made the national flag carrier of Qatar the world's fastest-growing airline, Al-Baker said in a speech at MEED's Qatar 2002 conference in London on 15 May.

'Qatar Airways is not just an airline,' he declared. 'We are an aviation group participating in all aspects of the aviation sector. Our aim is to ensure we achieve clear business diversification while acting as a engine of growth for the Qatari economy.'

The airline is responsible for Qatar Duty Free, Qatar Aviation Services, Qatar Holidaysand Qatar Aircraft Catering. It is also directing work on Doha International Airport where $20 million is now being invested in the arrivals area of the terminal. 'A new cargo terminal is planned and a second runway,' Al-Baker said. 'We will continue to develop Doha as a regional and international hub and we will continue to invest in our training and our people.' Plans call for the construction of a new terminal in time for the Asian games in December 2006.

Al-Baker said that the airline was now servicing 33 destinations, and aims to have 50 by 2004. 'We are operating from a young fleet with an average age of 5.7 years,' Al-Baker said. 'We will reduce that with the delivery of new aircraft.' The airline will have 22 aircraft by 2006. Al-Baker said Qatar Airways is developing its cargo activities and will launch the first co-charter at the beginning of 2003.

Al-Baker said that his airline was looking to join one of the airline alliances now beginning to play a major role in world aviation. 'We believe that there will be four or five major alliances in the world which will dominate aviation,' he said. 'We want to be part of one of those alliances. We have a lot of time to pick one of these.' He said Qatar Airways is already code-sharing with Germany's Lufthansaand is talking to unidentified regional carriers. The airline was also interested in code-sharing with a major US airline.

In response to a question, Al-Baker said the airline is still operating at a loss. 'Qatar Airways will not be profitable for the next five years at least, ' he said.

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