'At a time of gloom, global recession and financial crisis, we are adding 15 destinations.'
Qatar Airways, the Middle Eastern carrier with $35bn of planes on order, will stick with its expansion plans even amid mounting evidence that global growth is set to slow, Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said.
“At a time of gloom, global recession and financial crisis, we are adding 15 destinations, we take gambles,” Al Baker said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Dubai.
Qatar Airways, which has orders and options for 178 Airbus SAS and Boeing Co planes, will add flights from its base in Doha to European cities including Brussels, Budapest and Nice on the French Riviera and Asian locations including Phuket in Thailand and Hanoi, Vietnam, in the coming 12 months, he said.
Under Al Baker, Qatar Airways is employing a model similar to that at Dubai-based Emirates as it offers connecting services for long-haul passengers via its Doha hub. Founded in 1994, the carrier serves 90 destinations, up from 56 at the start of 2005.
Airline traffic rose 12 percent in May, led by a 19 percent jump in premium travel, the biggest in six years, according to the International Air Transport Association.
Still, the U.S. Federal Reserve last month trimmed its 2010 growth forecast for the world’s largest economy, according to minutes published July 14, and US retail sales fell for a second month in June.
Qatar Airways is weighing whether to buy Bombardier Inc. CSeries single-aisle jetliners or wait for Airbus to develop a version of its A320 family with upgraded engines, said al-Baker, who has been CEO since 1996.
Al Baker, who’ll be attending the Farnborough International Airshow next week, said he’s certain Toulouse, France-based Airbus will announce a program to re-engineer the A320 series.
“They are still in the race, and we are still interested in them,” the CEO said. “But we will also look at other airliners because we need to create competition to get the best conditions and the best deal from the aircraft manufacturer.”
The order book at Qatar Airways includes contracts for five Airbus A380 superjumbo aircraft for delivery starting in 2012. The company plans to introduce the 555-seat jetliners on flights to London and other high-density routes. (Bloomberg)