By Gavin Davids
State-owned carrier says it will decide by June on long-negotiated CSeries order
Qatar Airway’s expected order for Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft could signal the start of a push into the short-haul travel market, a leading aviation analyst said.
The state-owned carrier will decide by the Paris Air Show in June whether to place an order with the Canadian manufacturer, CEO Akbar Al Baker said earlier this month.
The medium-range jet liner, which carries up to 130 passengers, could indicate Qatar Airways is seeking a new niche in the Gulf’s short-haul industry, said Saj Ahmad, an aviation analyst at FBE Aerospace in London.
“Operating to secondary airports that are underserved, like Al Ain and other airports in Manama and Saudi Arabia, will give Qatar Airways the edge,” he said.
“They’ll be [filling] a smaller aeroplane and actually making good money from it because they can deploy it on much shorter routes.”
Along with Gulf rivals Etihad and Emirates Airway, Qatar Airways is one of the largest buyers of new aircraft, with orders for 80 Airbus A350s, 60 Boeing 787s and five Airbus SAS A380s.
The carrier flies to nearly 100 destinations and said earlier this month it was eyeing a 49 percent stake in an unnamed European carrier to broaden its global reach.
The Bombardier deal may also help Qatar’s efforts to break into the lucrative Canadian market, a sector that has been at the heart of a diplomatic row between the UAE and Ottawa, Ahmad said.
“It also gives them access to Canada, which Emirates and Etihad have struggled to get into, because of the bilateral dispute that’s been going on,” he said.
Qatar Airways is scheduled to begin a thrice-weekly service to Montreal in June.
“There’s a very good reason now for the Qataris to leverage that discord and actually snare passengers away from those two key hubs,” he said.
The flag carrier has said it will serve 120 destinations worldwide by 2013, served by a fleet of more than 120 aircraft.
Qatar Airways plans to add three cities to its global network during the second half of 2011; Kolkata in India, Oslo in Norway and Sofia in Bulgaria.