Qatar Airways Introduces Link to American's Dallas Hub

Qatar Airways will add a third new US city to its network in 2014 after announcing it will inaugurate flights between Doha and Dallas/Fort Worth in July 2014. The new link to the American Airlines hub is no real surprise following the carrier’s recently entry to the oneworld alliance and follows the previous announcement of flights to Miami and Philadelphia. This will increase the Qatar Airways US footprint to seven destinations.

The new daily flight, Qatar Airways’ second route into Texas, will launch on July 1, 2014 and will be operated using a two-class Boeing 777-200LR with seating for 42 passengers in Business Class and 217 in Economy. The new services will complement the carrier’s existing flights to Chicago, Houston, New York and Washington.

“We are pleased to continue enhancing our presence in the United States and are committed to providing passengers with an exceptional travel experience with Qatar Airways, as they travel on their long-haul and short-haul journeys,” said Akbar Al Baker, chief executive officer, Qatar Airways. “It is an exciting start to 2014 that we have announced three new American routes, and we look forward to welcoming our new and loyal passengers on board.”

According to MIDT data an estimated 174,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flew on Qatar Airways’ existing flights between Doha and the US in the past year (12 months to September 2013) with around 473,000 flying through the Qatar hub to other destinations across the airline’s network.

The main traffic flows via Doha were to Karachi, Pakistan; the Indian cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Hyderabad; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Dhaka, Bangladesh. In line with Qatar Airways’ growth strategy, many of these routes are served with multiple frequencies, ensuring maximum connectivity and convenience by providing short transit times.

Qatar Airways will also boost its operations in Turkey with the addition of four weekly flights to Istanbul from May 2014. Alongside its existing ten times weekly service to Istanbul Ataturk and four times weekly link to Ankara Esenboga, the Gulf carrier will operate flights to Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen with a four times weekly offering launching on May 22, 2014. The airline first launched in Turkey in 2004 when the Istanbul flight took to the air and the link to the capital followed from 2010.

Situated closest to some of the highly developed industrial cities of Turkey – Kocaeli, Bursa, Izmir and Sakarya, Sabiha Gökçen Airport is located on the eastern (Asian) side of Istanbul. The new route will be served by an Airbus A320 in a two cabin configuration, offering 12 Business Class and 132 Economy Class seats.

"Turkey’s aviation industry has experienced unprecedented growth over the past few years and we are delighted to be part of this growth by launching additional capacity into this vibrant market,” said Al Baker. "With increased government investment in the private sector and major infrastructure developments underway, we see huge market potential in adding more capacity to Turkey."

The two new route announcements follow less than a month after Qatar Airways announced plans to introduce flights to Edinburgh. The Scottish capital will be the airline’s third destination in the UK after London Heathrow and Manchester, although it is known than discussions continue to establish flights to Birmingham and one other destination in the country.

Officials at Edinburgh Airport have been seeking to attract a lucrative Middle East hub connection for a number of years and had also courted Etihad Airways. Emirates Airline was understood to not be a target due to its existing connections to Glasgow and Newcastle. The new five times weekly link will be introduced from May 28, 2014 and will be operated by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, seating 22 passengers in Business Class and 232 in Economy.

An executive at Edinburgh Airport confirmed to The HUB that although the Middle East hub link has been long in the making, discussions have progressed far more quickly after the airport gained its independence from BAA and became part of GIP’s growing airport portfolio.

Qatar Airways has also announced a notable increase in capacity to Sri Lanka – with one of its triple-daily-flights to capital city - Colombo, expanded from a narrow-bodied Airbus 320 to the airline’s flagship wide-bodied Boeing 777. From January 1, 2014, the larger 777 will offer flat-bed seats in Business class and enhanced in-flight entertainment options for passengers across both the 24 seat Business and 356 seat Economy cabins. The aircraft switch will represent a 54.6 per cent increase in daily capacity.

Qatar Airways Country Manager Sri Lanka, Ajay Jacob said that the increase in capacity to Colombo will help in strengthening the airline’s position in the Sri Lankan market.

“Colombo remains a popular destination in the carrier’s rising Asia-Pacific network. The added capacity means travellers to and from Colombo will have greater access and also an increasingly competitive product like the Boeing 777,” he said.

“There are a significant number of Sri Lankan expatriates who are working in Qatar, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. Additional seats will enable more passengers to travel with us, for leisure or on business,” he added.

In the 12 months to September 2013 an estimated 212,000 bi-directional O&D passengers travelled between Colombo and Doha, a route also served by SriLankan Airlines. Our analysis of MIDT data shows that just one fifth of Qatar Airways’ traffic on the route is point-to-point with over 200,000 passengers connecting via Doha International Airport to other points in the carrier’s network. The largest flows are to London Heathrow, Milan Malpensa, Zurich, Beirut and Stockholm Arlanda.

The hub concept in Doha has been a massive part in the airline’s rapid growth, which in just 16 years of operations has seen it grow to flying a modern fleet of 128 aircraft to 133 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and The Americas. The airline will soon move its entire operation to the new Hamad International Airport, which will provide the opportunity for significant future development.

The formal opening of new Doha hub airport has been delayed but a key milestone was passed this month when Qatar Airways Cargo, the airline’s freight business, handled its first shipment. This took place on December 1, 2014 and was transferred by the cargo operator from Europe to Doha for Qatar Petroleum. The soft opening of the giant cargo terminal, which is 75 per cent larger than the present facilities at Doha International, marks the first stage to the complete opening of the airport.

In 2013, Qatar Airways has already launched flights to eleven destinations – Gassim (Saudi Arabia), Najaf (Iraq), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Chicago (USA), Salalah (Oman), Basra (Iraq), Sulaymaniyah (Iraq), Chengdu (China), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Ta’if (Saudi Arabia) and most recently Clark Manila International Airport (Philippines).

Over the next weeks and months, the network will grow further with Hangzhou, China (December 20, 2013); Sharjah and Dubai World Central, both in the UAE (March 1, 2014); Philadelphia, USA (April 2, 2014); Sabiha Gökçen Airport, Turkey (May 22, 2014); Edinburgh, Scotland (May 28, 2014) and Miami, USA (June 10, 2014).

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…