Qatar firm on India airline plan

Qatar Airways not interested in bidding for Air India: group CEO Akbar Al Baker

August 28, 2017 09:36 pm | Updated 10:36 pm IST - Prague

Taking flight:  Rapid network expansion has pitchforked the carrier into the league of the fastest growing airlines.

Taking flight: Rapid network expansion has pitchforked the carrier into the league of the fastest growing airlines.

Qatar Airways is firm on its plan to start an airline in India despite facing business challenges because of sanctions imposed on Qatar by some Gulf countries.

“India is a big market and we will definitely start operations there,” Qatar Airways group chief executive Akbar Al Baker said after inaugurating the carrier’s direct flight from Doha to Prague in the Czech Republic.

Not eyeing AI

Asked if Qatar Airways would bid for Air India, which the Centre recently decided to privatise, he said the airline was not interested in buying India’s national carrier as “we want to launch our own airline.”

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain are among countries that have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed what Mr. Al Baker described as “illegal sanctions on my country” for its alleged support to militant groups.

Qatar Airways, he said, was resilient and the trade and travel ban would not curb its drive to expand its global footprint.

Blocked by rivals

Mr. Al Baker accused some carriers in India — declining to name them — of trying to block Qatar Airways from starting an airline but hoped the “Indian government will not favour them only.”

“We will overcome this opposition because travellers in India deserve more,” he said, citing the government’s business friendly policies.

The airline’s connection to the “iconic city” of Prague was a response to requests from passengers with the Czech capital “a highly sought after destination,” Mr. Al Baker said. The daily service, he hoped, would help “the Czech Republic’s tourism industry to grow.”

Outlining the airline’s ambitious expansion plans, he said the next destination would be Kiev in Ukraine.

Also in the pipeline, this year and 2018, are plans to start operations to Abidjan in Ivory Coast, Accra in Ghana, Canberra in Australia, Chiang Mai and Utapao in Thailand, Chittagong in Bangladesh, San Francisco in the U.S., Mombasa in Kenya.

“Last month, the airline inaugurated its first service to Skopje (Macedonia) and we are committed to connecting its passengers to more than 150 destinations,” he said.

Started 24 years ago, Qatar Airways — based out of the state-of-the-art Hamad International Airport in Doha — played second fiddle for long to its Gulf competitor, Emirates.

But rapid network expansion has pitchforked Qatar’s national carrier into the league of the fastest growing airlines in the world.

Based out of the state of the art Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar Airways has bagged several international awards over the last few years. Recently it got the Skytrax best airline award, making it the fourth time it has won the prestigious award.

The other awards it has bagged include the best airline in the Middle East and the best business class and best first class airline lounges.

(The writer was in Prague at the invitation of Qatar Airways.)

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