BOASTING of having one of the most modern fleets in the sky, Qatar Airways (QA) receives a new aircraft every 10-12 days to serve its growing number of destinations and routes, says Group CEO of Qatar Airways Akbar al Baker. In an interview with The Business Year, Baker elaborates on the airline's expanding operations in the skies, within the sector and the playing field.
How does your most recent fleet expansion, worth more than USD18 billion, bring new improvements to Qatar Airways' operations?
Qatar Airways prides itself on having one of the most modern fleets in the sky. Our recent order from Boeing was history in the making and representative of the trust we place within Boeing to deliver aircraft for our growing fleet, in line with meeting the needs of our ambitious network expansion plans around the world. Our 195-strong fleet of aircraft is constantly growing as we strive to expand to even more business and leisure destinations. We currently receive a new aircraft every 10-12 days; without this robust programme of aircraft deliveries, we could not serve the new routes that are in our plans for 2017/18 or meet the needs of our passengers who are flying further and more often than ever before. We have received our 30th Boeing 787 Dreamliner, our seventh Airbus A380, and our 14th Airbus A350. During 2017/18, our growing number of more than 150 global destinations is scheduled to increase by 14 routes. Our inaugural flight to Auckland in February this year was significant as it represented a record-breaking event as the world's longest commercial flight, taking 17 hours and 30 minutes and covering a distance of 14,535km from our hub in Doha. Our network expansion and fleet development naturally work in tandem. They are interdependent and only with these two elements complementing one another can QA continue to reach for its goal of becoming the best airline in the world.
What was the driving force behind the decision to increase your stake in British Airways owner IAG to 20 percent, and what new benefits will this arrangement bring to your company?
Qatar Airways further increased its stake in IAG from 15.67 to 20 percent in July 2016 owing to the many synergies that exist between the airline, IAG, and its fellow member oneworld airlines. It was a direct result of the potential we believe exists in the group and our increased shareholding reflects the strength of commercial and strategic ties between the companies. QA supports the ongoing strategy of IAG and is highly supportive of the group's management team. In terms of the benefits that this relationship will bring to QA and its passengers, the synergies that already exist between us and the group's other oneworld member airlines will only continue to grow and expand. For example, in October 2016, QA and British Airways expanded their existing code share agreement to include all non-stop flights operating between the UK and Doha, allowing both oneworld carriers to provide passengers with better links between the UK, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
How does Qatar Airways work with the Qatar Tourism Authority to raise the country's profile to prospective travellers abroad?
Qatar Airways takes its role in helping to raise Qatar's profile to prospective travellers seriously, and in recent years we have seen Qatar establish itself as a true world-class destination for sport, entertainment and the arts, highlighting Doha as a stopover destination to its millions of passengers. A key foundation of this progress has been a close working relationship with the Qatar Tourism Authority; most notably, QA led an initiative to introduce a new free transit visa scheme to our passengers, providing travellers with unprecedented access to Qatar and further supporting the country's soaring tourism industry. QA is also a key supporter and sponsor of a number of world-class sporting events based in Qatar. We recently hosted the first-ever Qatar Airways Cup, bringing our sponsored teams of FC Barcelona and Al-Ahli Football Club to Doha for the Match of Champions. We also sponsor world-class events in tennis, cycling and squash, further enhancing Qatar's reputation as a centre for world sporting events.
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