Guangzhou, China (eTN) – Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker spoke of the airline’s successful introduction to Guangzhou, the capital of Southern China here on Monday, highlighting further expansion into long-haul markets over the next few years.
Guangzhou is Doha-based Qatar Airways’ fourth destination in China and 82nd overall worldwide. The airline now operates a total of 20 scheduled flights a week to China from its Middle Eastern hub of Doha to Beijing (four flights), Shanghai (five flights), Hong Kong (daily) and Guangzhou (four flights). Beginning May 1, the carrier adds a fifth frequency to Guangzhou, Qatar Airways’ 15th destination in the Far East.
Guangzhou, also known by its older English name of Canton, has a population of almost 10 million people and is the capital of Guangdong province. Situated on the Pearl River, the city is only 120 kilometers northwest of China’s thriving business capital of Hong Kong.
One of the fastest growing world carriers, Qatar flies to most of the North African destinations, South Africa and Nigeria. It also covers the Eastern African capitals of Nairobi (daily) and Dar es Salaam.
Addressing Chinese and international media at a press conference marking the airline’s newest route launch to Guangzhou at the Westin Hotel (Guangzhou), Mr Al Baker said the airline was determined to open up further services as part of an aggressive expansion plan to serve exciting business and leisure cities around the world.
He cited the Doha – Guangzhou route, launched on March 31, as an example of the airline’s commitment to introduce flights to key cities in countries with thriving economies.
The carrier currently operates a modern fleet of 62 Airbus and Boeing aircraft to 82 destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Indian Subcontinent, Far East and North America. Starting November 10, it will launch direct non-stop services to Houston, its third destination in the United States.
Mr Al Baker hailed the airline’s expansion into China as a measure of continued support for one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. “Our new route builds on the success of Qatar Airways’ operations across China in such a short few years since we launched flights to this dynamic economic landscape in 2003,” he said, speaking during the press briefing at the Westin Hotel.
“We have steadily built up our business in China, first with Shanghai, then Beijing and Hong Kong – and am now pleased to see our award-winning Five Star service expand to yet another key city. Guangzhou offers both business and leisure travelers an alternative gateway to this fascinating country.”
“Qatar Airways looks forward to welcoming passengers from Europe, Middle East and Africa on the new flights to Guangzhou via our Doha hub. The route provides a strong sporting link as Doha hosted the biggest ever Asian Games in 2006, while Guangzhou is set to host the next Asian Games in 2010,” added Al Baker. “We have taken an important step to fly to Guangzhou, and as we grow our business, we will look at similar opportunities far and wide across the world.”
With outstanding orders for more than 200 brand new aircraft worth over US$30 billion, Al Baker said deliveries over the next few years will be the catalyst to open up new routes worldwide.
“With our ideal central geographical position in the Gulf, we will soon be able to operate flights to any key city around the world non-stop, thanks to the arrival of the Long Range version of our Boeing 777 aircraft later this year,” explained Al Baker, who later officially opened the airline’s new sales and reservations office in the heart of Guangzhou’s business district.
“The Boeing 777-200LR is capable of flying distances of around 17 hours non-stop and gives Qatar Airways’ passengers a unique flying experience. We will open up exciting new diverse business and leisure routes worldwide with this fabulous aircraft, including Houston.”
The carrier has ordered 32 Boeing 777 aircraft – a mix of the Long Range and Extended Range versions – together with other aircraft types, including 60 Boeing 787s, 80 Airbus A350s and five Airbus A380 super jumbos.
During his presentation, Al Baker updated media on the construction of the New Doha International Airport, which would help facilitate Qatar Airways’ huge expansion.
Reclamation work on the project has been completed as 60 per cent of the site is built on land dredged from the sea. Both runways are taking shape and terminal infrastructure is well under construction. The airport is due to open in 2010 with an initial capacity of 24 million passengers a year, rising to 50 million during the final development phase from 2015 onwards.
Al Baker also spoke of Qatar Airways’ commitment to a cleaner and safer environment, stressing the airline was spearheading a top-level international study looking at Gas-To-Liquids fuel (GTL) to power passenger jets.