Despite the economic and political blockade imposed by neighbouring Middle East countries, the national carrier of Qatar exceeded expectations in 2017, growing its fleet, expediting new routes and increasing frequencies as the airline celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Qatar Airways Group chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, said: “This year, our twentieth anniversary as an airline, is particularly special for us. As we reflect on our achievements, we reaffirm our commitment to providing excellence in the skies.
“After twenty years of service, we vow to never rest on our achievements, but rather to focus on how we can continue to innovate,” he said.
Qatar Airways Cargo took delivery of two new B747-800 freighters and its thirteenth B777 freighter this year, continuing its trajectory of rapid growth and expansion. In October, Qatar Airways Cargo announced Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as its latest freighter destination in the US, making it the first international airline to commence freighter service to Pittsburgh.
The cargo carrier also added Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Quito, Miami, Phnom Penh and Yangon to its dedicated freighter network in 2017, strengthening its commitment to supporting the global air trade and supply chain industry.
Qatar Airways Cargo’s continuous investment in ground infrastructure has boosted its capability and capacity to accommodate increased demand since the diplomatic blockade on the State of Qatar began in June. The cargo carrier opened two new facilities during the summer, its dedicated Climate Control Centre and Cargo Overflow structure, providing close to an additional 10,000 sqm of temperature-controlled handling space to manage an increase in food imports into Qatar.
Qatar Airways Cargo recorded high volumes, revenues, yields and market shares in 2017, and was one of only a few international cargo carriers with significant growth in freight tonnes kilometres (FTK) this year.
As a group, Qatar Airways took delivery of 19 new aircraft in 2017, taking its total fleet to 212 aircraft. The airline also recently upsized an earlier order for 50 A320neo with a firm order instead for 50 of the larger A321neo ACF (Airbus Cabin Flex configuration), in an order signed earlier this month.
Qatar Airways continued to forge partnerships and in November, it announced an acquisition in fellow oneworld member Cathay Pacific, purchasing approximately 9.61 per cent of Cathay Pacific’s total issued share capital.
The airline further strengthened its commitment to Italy with the acquisition of 49 per cent of AQA Holding, the new parent company of Meridiana fly (Meridiana), while the previous sole shareholder Alisarda has kept 51 per cent.
In June Qatar Airways released its annual results for the 2017 fiscal year, revealing an impressive 21.7 per cent year-on-year net profit increase. The results also showed an annual revenue increase of 10.4 per cent.
One of the world’s fastest-growing airlines, Qatar Airways launched 11 new destinations in 2017, including Auckland – the world’s longest commercial flight – Nice, Dublin, Skopje, Sohar, Oman, Kyiv, Ukraine, Prague, Czech Republic, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Adana, Turkey, Chiang Mai and St. Petersburg.
In addition to launching flights to Chiang Mai, its fourth destination in Thailand, the airline also introduced a fifth daily non-stop service to Bangkok, as well as a daily service to Krabi. In January 2018, it will commence service to Pattaya, the airline’s fifth Thai destination.
Qatar Airways will also add a new direct daily service to Hanoi, with Ho Chi Minh City’s daily service increasing by three flights a week to 10 starting 1 January 2018.
Qatar Airways also doubled its frequencies to a number of destinations in Eastern Europe, the Nordics and Russia, following a significant increase in passenger demand to the popular destinations of Warsaw, Helsinki, and Moscow, with increases to Prague and Kyiv following just shortly after the launch of the routes themselves.
Qatar Airways Group chief executive, Akbar Al Baker was also elected chairman of the Board of Governors of global aviation industry body International Air Transport Association (IATA), effective June 2018. The rotating one-year term will commence at the end of IATA’s 2018 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Sydney and will continue until the end of its 2019 AGM.
The carrier said it “looks ahead with excitement to 2018”, when it will launch new destinations, including Penang, Canberra, Thessaloniki and Cardiff, the airline’s fifth UK gateway, to name just a few. The airline will also be the global launch customer and launch operator of the new A350-1000, in 2018.