DOHA, Qatar – Qatar Airways is amping up its efforts in the United States and the airline views U.S.-India travel as a crucial component of this effort.
Qatar Airways has recently announced the launch of additional flights to India, which can be connected to through its U.S. hubs. The airline also recently opened more offices in the United States as part of a push to expand American business. Photo courtesy of Qatar Airways
The Doha-based Qatar Airways recently opened three new offices – in Washington, D.C., Houston and New York – and company Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker concluded a swing through the United States last month with the final of the three new openings in New York. The event featured some heavy media presence, as well as business tycoon Donald Trump.
Qatar Airways, which began flying out of the country in June 2007 from Newark, N.J., now has 21 flights per week leaving from the United States. The airline commenced service from Washington in July 2007 and Houston in March of this year.
Passengers flying into Qatar Airways' Doha hub have the option of connecting to 82 different destinations around the world.
In combination with the recent push in the United States, Qatar Airways is launching six new routes over the next few months, with India front and center of this push. New flights to the Indian cities of Amritsar and Goa will start in October. Other new destinations include Melbourne and Sydney, Australia.
With the addition of the new Indian flights, Qatar Airways will have 64 flights a week to 10 Indian cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Hyderabad, Trivandrum, Cochin and Kozikhode. The airline also flies to other South Asian destinations, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
For the U.S. traveler on Qatar Airways, India is now increasingly a non-stop flight to Doha and one connection away. Qatar Airways flies daily from each of its three U.S. airport locations, giving passengers a myriad of options to travel to Doha and connect with a multitude of flights the subcontinent.
According to Tony Hughes, Qatar Airways' vice president of the Americas, the airline is making a very conscious effort to target the Indian-American community and has seen increasing business from that market since it launched in the United States. "We have become a very well-know option in the Indian market in that period of time," Hughes said.
In 2008, approximately 44 percent of the people traveling from the United States to Qatar on Qatar Airways connected to the airline's flights to India, the airline reported.
Hughes said that the biggest markets that look to connect to India on Qatar Airways are the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
"The U.S. has the potential to be the biggest market," he said. "Probably Canada is still ahead, but we have seen tremendous growth in the U.S. market to India over the last five years."
The continued rise in U.S.-India business during that time period has admittedly helped the airlines' business and Hughes admits that Qatar Airways does carry a lot of travelers doing business in India.
Hughes also believes that Qatar Airways' status as a five-star airline is particularly attractive to U.S. travelers to India, facing a flight of over a dozen hours.
The airlines' Boeing 777 aircraft, for example, feature business class seats with a 2-2-2 configuration and economy class with a 3-3-3 configuration, which is approximately one seat less over the same space than many other airlines, according to Hughes.
"There is a lot more room and this is important when you are on a plane for 14 hours," he said.
In addition, Qatar Airways flights all have Indian cuisine, as well as Bollywood movies and flight crew that speak Hindi.
Overall, India is critical to Qatar Airways' business and the company plans to continue to grow its services there in the future, in addition to the announcement about the most recent flights.
"India is by far Qatar Airways' largest single market in terms of destinations served, and we are extremely pleased to be expanding our wings further into the country," Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker said in a statement about the launch of the airlines two new routes to Goa and Amritsar. "Our new flights will cater to a highly underserved market, and we are delighted to be able to connect the world with the newest cities in our international network.
"There is a huge North Indian community living and working in key markets of the Gulf, United Kingdom, Africa, and North America, who will now have an additional gateway to North India with the launch of our flights to Amritsar," he added. "Similarly, the Goan community is well travelled with a huge number of people living and working around the world, particularly the Gulf, so our convenient flights would be a welcome relief for those traveling back home."
Qatar Airways, which was started in 1994, currently has approximately 70 airplanes and has predicted it will operate a fleet of 110 aircraft by 2013. The airline has ordered 80 Airbus A350s, 24 Airbus A320 family of aircraft, 60 Boeing 787s and 32 Boeing 777s, with deliveries of the latter having started in November 2007.
The airline is one of the customers of the twin-deck Airbus A380 "super jumbos" with five on order and scheduled for delivery starting in 2012.
According to Hughes, none of the aircraft in the airlines' fleet are more than five-years-old, which necessitates the high number of planes on order. He emphasized that all the new flights, the growth of the Indian American market and the large orders for new airplanes point toward a strong future for Qatar Airways.
"At a time when a lot of airways are cutting back we are going ahead and launching new routes," Hughes said. "We've grown 35 percent a year for 10 years and the company is still very aggressive and will continue to grow."