By Andy Sambidge
Gulf airline says it will start flights to southern city of Najaf in January 2013
Qatar Airways said on Tuesday it will launch its third route in Iraq in early 2013.
The southern city of Najaf, home to the holy Imam Ali mosque, will join the capital Baghdad and northern city of Erbil, two routes launched earlier this year, on January 23.
The addition of Najaf takes Qatar Airways’ frequency to Iraq from eight flights to 12 services a week.
The Doha-based airline will operate four-flights-a-week non-stop to Najaf, the airline said in a statement.
Situated 160km from Baghdad, Najaf receives millions of pilgrims annually who travel to visit the Imam Ali shrine, one of the most revered holy Islamic sites.
With many upcoming construction projects, Najaf has become a model for other provinces in Iraq offering an early sign of huge investment opportunities in the country.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said he was delighted the airline was boosting services to Iraq, a market where the carrier this year alone had launched services to two prime cities.
“Iraq is proving to be an important market for Qatar Airways; we currently operate four-flights-a-week between Doha and the cities of Baghdad and Erbil," he said.
"We are confident that Najaf will prove to be a popular destination for our passengers, especially those from the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific and those returning to visit their homeland.
“With major infrastructure developments and vast untapped tourist potential, we are very excited about our launch of flights to Najaf.”
Qatar Airways currently operates a fleet of 111 aircraft to 118 destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.
Since the beginning of 2012, Qatar Airways has launched flights to Baku (Azerbaijan); Tbilisi (Georgia); Kigali (Rwanda); Zagreb (Croatia), Erbil (Iraq), Baghdad (Iraq), Perth (Australia) and Kilimanjaro (Tanzania).