By Andy Sambidge
Akbar Al Baker hints at further expansion for Gulf carrier after inauguration of Chicago flights
The CEO of Qatar Airways has hinted that it will launch additional routes in the United States after starting flights to Chicago last week.
Akbar Al Baker said the US remains a focal point for the airline, with the possibility of extra routes within the country over the next few years.
The airline launched its North American operations in the summer of 2007 with flights to New York and Washington DC, followed by Houston, Montreal and now, Chicago with a total of 27 scheduled flights each week to five gateways across the region.
Al Baker spoke of two key developments this year that will further raise the carrier’s profile in the United States.
A new codeshare agreement has started with American Airlines which will strengthen Qatar Airways’ position in the United States, in particular Chicago, one of its US partner’s hubs, alongside membership of the oneworld global airline alliance.
He said in a statement: “With the new American Airlines code share, we are able to connect more passengers with seamless access through Chicago.
"And later this year, we hope to officially become a member of the oneworld alliance that will provide Qatar Airways with a stronger network around the world, including the vitally important US market.”
He also outlined the airline’s aggressive expansion so far this year that has seen Chicago joined by new additions to Qatar Airways’ global map – namely, Phnom Penh in Cambodia, the Iraqi city of Najaf and Gassim in Saudi Arabia.
Over the next few weeks and months, Qatar Airways will launch flights to Salalah in Oman, Chengdu in China and the Iraqi cities of Basra and Sulaymaniyah.
Qatar Airways will initially fly to Chicago three times a week but will enhance capacity on the non-stop route to a daily operation from June 15.
“We are looking forward to connecting the Midwest to the Middle East and beyond,” said Al Baker.
“With the Chicago route going daily from June 15, and our presence here for more than two years through dedicated freighter services, it clearly demonstrates Qatar Airways’ commitment to this key city.
“The economic benefits will extend to key regional industries as well – engineering, education, and commodities trading in particular. Many travellers and businesses will benefit from additional access to and from the Middle East.”