Qatar Airways keen to expand Canada services

Airline's CEO says Canadians deserve more flights; struggling to secure landing rights
Qatar Airways keen to expand Canada services
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. (AFP/Getty Images)
By Andy Sambidge
Sat 14 Apr 2012 09:30 AM

The CEO of Qatar Airways has said he is struggling to secure more landing rights to boost services to Canada.

Akbar Al Baker said in a speech in Montreal that Canadians deserved a better airline service to the Middle East but government restrictions were hindering progress.

“Qatar is of course interested in forging even closer ties with Canada but we are struggling with being granted additional landing rights,” he said in comments pubished by Canada's Globe and Mail.

“You Canadians deserve that. It clearly shows the need for more flights. More capacity and more frequency drive greater competition and have only positive economic impact for the benefit of both countries.”

Already, the three weekly flights launched last June are running ahead of expectations and travelling 85 percent full, he said.

He added that that Qatar's expansion efforts were not designed to undermine Air Canada, which has previously opposed any additional flights from Middle East-based rivals.

The Canadian carrier has complained that the partially state-owned Middle Eastern carriers benefit from an unfair advantage.

“Air Canada should not get worried of competition. Competition makes other airlines very strong,” Al Baker said.

Montreal is Qatar's fourth North American gateway, in addition to Houston, New York and Washington.

Last month, it was reported that relations between Canada and the UAE were back on track following a spat over airline landing rights two years ago.

Relations between the oil-rich UAE and Canada deteriorated rapidly after Canada’s transport agency refused to give Gulf carriers Etihad and Emirates new landing rights.

The Gulf state retaliated with the closure of Camp Mirage, a secret military base located outside Dubai and used to supply Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

Separately, Qatar Airways said it plans to start flights to Atlanta, Chicago, Boston and Detroit within the next year, doubling its US network.

A daily New York service will also be increased to three flights a day, with the addition of links via cities in Eastern and Western Europe, Al Baker said in comments published by Bloomberg. The airline has daily flights to Washington and Houston.

“Qatar Airways is in the midst of a very aggressive expansion plan,” Al Baker said. “The only thing that stopped us from going earlier is the delayed delivery of the 787s,” he said about the US flights.

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