“Initial load factors on our new Dublin-Doha route are 5% above our expectations and if they stay above 85% we may add a second daily B787 Dreamliner – and if bookings continue to grow we can look at changing one of the flights to an A350,” Akbar Al Bakar, Chief Executive, Qatar Airways Group, told a press conference in Dublin.
The B787 Dreamliner has 254 seats – 22 in Business Class and 232 in Economy Class, wheras the A350 WXB has 283 – 36 in Business Class and 247 in Economy Class.
Asked by Irish Travel Trade News which airline – Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, or Turkish – would be the first to exit the Dublin route if future bookings did not support all these services, he replied: “You will have to ask the other CEOs how much heat they can take from Qatar Airways!”
Addressing the current restrictions on airspace imposed by a consortium of Saudi Arabia-led countries, he said: “The impact on our European, Asian and US routes is insignificant – an extra 10-15 minutes for Europe and Asia or 15-20 minutes for the USA. Only our African and South American flights have higher additional flight times.
“A submission has been made to the International Civil Aviation Organisation and hopefully, sooner rather than later, the ICAO will rule on the right to free passage in airspace.”
Meanwhile, the laptop ban on US flights had just been lifted for Qatar Airways, following a two-day audit at Doha’s Hamad International Airport by the US Transportation Security Administration. “This requirement has now gone global, so all the 240-plus destinations that have flights into the USA will have to comply with these new, draconian requirements,” he said. “Hamad is one of the foremost airports with the most sophisticated security equipment installed. I can say this with confidence because I am also the chief executive of the airport.”
It is also one of the best equipped, with facilities including a 25-metre swimming pool, gym, spa and two squash courts.
Investments in Other Airlines
Qatar Airways recently announced a wish to acquire 10% of American Airlines, but this would require Board approval, which to date has not been forthcoming. However, once US regulatory approval is received, Qatar Airlines can acquire up to 4.75% of shares without Board approval.
“Our application is well advanced – and maybe when we take 4.75% they may see the benefits. We do not intend to take a seat on the Board or to affect their anti-Gulf stance.”
Are any other investments planned? “We will surprise people again very soon!” was Akbar Al Baker’s enigmatic reply.