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Qatar Airways will continue to expand despite blockade: Baker

Qatar Airways will continue to expand despite blockade: Baker


Satyendra Pathak
Doha
QATAR Airways (QA) will continue to expand its fleet and services globally despite the ongoing blockade by the neighbouring countries, QA's Group Chief Executive said on Monday.
Addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the 31st IATA Ground Handling Conference (IGHC) in Doha, Akbar al Baker said the Gulf carrier still remains a robust company despite the blockade.
Baker said the carrier, which is preparing to announce its financial results in June, remains strong as it continues to expand and invest in new markets, adds new aircraft to its growing fleet and employs more workers.
"It is business as usual. Soon after the blockade, the airline quickly formulated a plan to expand its fleet and launch new destinations to make up for the lost routes in the blockading countries," he said.
In the midst of the crisis, he said, QA Cargo became a lifeline supplying the country with fresh food from across the globe.
Triumphing in the face of adversity, QA was named Skytrax Airline of the Year for the fourth time, he said.
In the first three months of 2018 alone, he said, four new routes to Pattaya, Canberra, Penang and Thessaloniki were launched.
Baker announced that the airline will add 11 new planes to its fleet this year as it prepares to launch 16 new destinations in 2018 and 2019 after adding 11 new destinations in 2017.
Baker also confirmed that the plan to expand Hamad International Airport (HIA) was on track.
He announced that its ground handling subsidiary Qatar Aviation Services (QAS) will begin international expansion in 2018.
The company, which proved successful at the level of HIA, may look to expand in other international airports, one of which could be Malpensa Airport in Milan, Italy, but did not specify whether a final decision has been taken in this regard so far.
Expanding QAS' operations internationally will enhance QA's rapid growth plans, as well as provide other airlines and airports access to QAS' capabilities and the profit and performance improvements that it delivers to its customers, he said.
Terming the decision to launch QAS internationally as a logical business decision, Baker said:"It is significant that our plans for international expansion were announced at the IGHC, since we have a long-term relationship with IATA. The QAS management team holds key positions on the IATA technical working groups, proposing and implementing developments that improve standards across the aviation industry. By being the best in a high-tech, high-traffic and high-growth environment, we provide innovative solutions for our customers that they don't have access to through other ground handling agents."
Launched in 2000 as a local ground handling agent (GHA) at Doha International Airport, QAS' ability to stay ahead of the airline's and the airport's growth needs and maintain the quality of service delivery has been a driving factor in its success.
"Today QAS is the sole ground handling agent at Hamad International Airport managing all ground handling requirements for approximately 225,000 flights per year with 99.5 per cent on-time performance for all international passenger, cargo and executive jet traffic," Baker said.
Baker pointed out that the company, which employs about 7,500 people from 54 countries, delivered 47 million pieces of goods to become one of the least delayed in delivery of luggage in this sector with a rate of 0.6 per thousand passengers.
More than two million tonnes of cargo were delivered last year at an annual rate of increase of 25 percent through HIA, which served 36 million passengers.
HIA Chief Operating Officer Bader Mohammed al Meer, who also addressed the press conference, said the airport has reached a global level and become one of the top five airports of the world.
The four-day 31st annual IATA Ground Handling Conference (IGHC) began in Doha on Monday. The conference, a first of its kind to take place in the Middle East, is being held under the patronage Qatar's Minister of Transport and Communications HE Jassim bin Saif al Sulaiti and drew more than 700 international delegates and guests from more than a dozen nations globally.
The minister, who opened the conference, said,"We are tremendously proud to be hosting the 31st Annual IATA Ground Handling Conference as it is for the first time this gathering is taking place in the Middle East. It is significant that Doha has been chosen as the inaugural host in the Middle East. The fact that so many delegates have chosen to attend this year's conference is a demonstration of confidence in both Qatar Airways and Qatar."
A video highlighting QA's resilience amidst the illegal blockade against Qatar, as well as an additional video highlighting the airline's many significant achievements during the past 20 years were shown on the occasion.
(PHOTOGRAPHS BY HANSON K JOSEPH)

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