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Qatar Airways set to continue its expansion

By Wang Wen (China Daily)

09:42, December 13, 2011

CHONGQING - Qatar Airways Co plans to double its number of flights in China to 70 a week by 2013, its chief executive officer said last week.

The Doha-based carrier, which is the national airline of the State of Qatar, has just increased its frequency across China from 25 to 35 flights each week.

On Nov 28, Qatar Airways launched Chongqing as its fifth destination in China and on Dec 2 the carrier also added three new flights to Beijing and four extra weekly flights to Hong Kong on Dec 2.

"If China's aviation authority permits us to double our frequency in the next two years, we will invest in more real estate and employ more staff in China in the future," said Akbar al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways.

"An increasing number of Chinese residents are traveling overseas, which will provide enough customers for carriers," Baker said.

The occupancy rate of the company's flights between Chongqing and Doha, launched almost two weeks ago, is approximately 75 percent, said Al Baker.

"That is positive for a new route," he added.

The increasing flow of international passengers to inland Chinese cities is also attracting other Gulf carriers: Emirates Airlines, part of the Emirates Group, plans to launch a non-stop route between Dubai and Chengdu in 2015.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) upgraded its profit forecast for Asia in 2011 by $800 million to $3.3 billion on Wednesday.

However, IATA also downgraded its 2012 profit forecast for airlines to $3.5 billion from $4.9 billion.

"The economic turmoil in 2011 resulting from a failure of governments to resolve the eurozone sovereign debt crisis, could lead to losses of more than $8 billion - the largest since the 2008 financial crisis," said Tony Tyler, IATA's director-general and CEO.

However, Qatar Airways will not stop its expansion worldwide, despite the effect the debt crises in the US and the eurozone are having on the global aviation industry.

"Some weak airlines will not exist, but airlines, like us, with strong financial capability, can still grow during an economic downturn," said Al Baker, adding that even in 2008, the carrier's business increased by 40 percent.

Al Baker said international trade is still continuing and the demand in some markets, including China and countries in Africa, is still increasing.

"It is still opportunity for us," he said.

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