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Qatar Air chief: We would love to operate in Iran

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Qatar Airways, the second-biggest Arab carrier, plans to roll out new routes in Iran, CEO of the company announced.

Qatar Airways, the second-biggest Arab carrier, plans to roll out new routes in Iran, CEO of the company announced.

“We are going to add three more new destinations within a few weeks into Iran so that we serve that very large market in a very strong way,” CEO Akbar Al Baker told Arabian Business.

Qatar Airways in October requested permission to ply domestic routes in Iran, a move that would have seen the Doha-based carrier become the first foreign airline to operate in Iran.

The carrier already services routes between Doha and the Iranian cities of Tehran, Shiraz and Mashhad, but Al Baker said he thought it was unlikely to receive permission to operate domestically.

“Every airline in this region would love to operate internally in Iran but we are not an Iranian carrier,” he said. “They have their own carriers, they are serving the market. We are a foreign operator, we cannot operate internally.

“There is an intention to persuade them to allow us, but I don’t think the domestic carriers will accept. As far as we are concerned we are only going to increase frequencies between Qatar and Iran, and add destinations.”

“We are also planning to go to Perth, Zagreb, Belgrade, Kiev, Helsinki, St Petersburg and many other destinations within the next 12 months. Fifteen new destinations in the next 12 months.”

Despite the carrier’s petrodollar-backed spending spree, Qatar Airways has not been immune to rising fuel costs. Oil prices peaked in April this year above $127 a barrel as the civil war in Libya cut the country’s oil exports.

Fuel typically accounts for about 40 percent of an airline’s costs and, alongside slowing global travel demand, has squeezed margins at some of the world’s largest carriers.

Emirates airline, the world’s largest airline, said an additional $1bn in fuel costs had contributed to a 76 percent slump in half-year profit to AED827m ($225m).