Global Traveler: Qatar Airways has been growing very quickly over the past two years. I understand that a direct U.S. flight route is in the works. To what do you attribute that growth?
John T. Hogan: We’ve launched an aggressive growth plan and built a reputation for premium customer service. We offer our customers a greater choice of destinations, more flights and the latest in-flight products and services. Our airline’s commitment to offering the highest level of service from our dedicated workforce has earned us many accolades.
As one of the world’s fastest growing airlines, averaging 40 percent annually, we do have plans to bring our award-winning service to the United States.
GT: Qatar has invested a great deal in the development of Doha and the surrounding area. How does this investment benefit the airline?
JTH: As the airline of the state of one on one Qatar, our success is directly related to the success and prosperity of Doha, and Qatar in general. At Qatar Airways we believe in being good neighbors to the community in which we work. Because of this, we are committed to sponsoring events that will bring publicity and revenue to the area.
Recently, leading political, industry, academic and media figures from around the world visited Doha for the World Economic Forum Arab Competitiveness Roundtable, hosted by Qatar Airways. The airline played a key role in organizing the event, flying delegates from around the world to Doha, where we also hosted lavish dinners, including a Qatari Night Gala Dinner, and cultural entertainment showcasing true Qatari hospitality. The roundtable brought together more than 200 global leaders to share their insights on commercial, political and economic developments in the region.
Qatar Airways also hosted its second international squash tournament in Doha (April 18 to 24) with the world’s leading players on the women’s circuit competing with each other in the Qatari capital. The Qatar Airways Squash Challenge 2005 had 32 players from the Women’s International Squash Players Association taking part in the weeklong event at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Looking toward 2006, Qatar Airways and the Doha Asian Games Organizing Committee (DAGOC) signed a partnership agreement to announce Qatar Airways as the official airline for the 15th Asian Games Doha 2006. The alliance with Qatar Airways will enable the DAGOC to deliver the highest possible standard of airline service to athletes, officials, spectators and media representatives participating in the 15th Asian Games. Doha in 2006 will welcome thousands of athletes from 45 countries across Asia and tens of thousands of spectators from around the world.
GT: I understand a new airport is also in the works. Tell us about those plans.
JTH: The New Doha International Airport is scheduled to open in 2009 at a cost of $2.5 billion in the first phase, and will be capable of handling 12 million passengers a year, together with 750,000 tons of cargo. Once fully developed in 2015 at a cost of $5.5 billion, the airport is expected to handle up to 50 million passengers and 2 million tons of cargo per year.
One of the project’s key features is that 40 percent of the site will be built on reclaimed land from the Arabian Gulf. Qatar Airways will manage the new airport, designed to help shape Doha as a key regional and global aviation hub.
The new airport will be the world’s first to be designed and built specifically for Airbus’ new A380-800 double-decker super jumbo. The A380 will be capable of carrying more than 550 passengers, with Qatar Airways as a launch customer taking delivery of our first A380s in 2009, the year the new airport opens. U.S. engineering and construction giant Bechtel has been awarded the contract to build the new airport, which will initially have a 26-gate passenger terminal complex, two runways, maintenance hangar, cargo center and extensive shopping facilities.
GT: Qatar Airways has ranked well in industry surveys, including those conducted by Skytrax. Tell us about the first- and business-class products, onboard services, awards and rankings.
JTH: For our first-class passengers, we offer priority check-in with a generous 88-pound baggage allowance. We also offer a first-class lounge at Doha International Airport (DOH) and chauffeured Series-7 BMW transportation to the aircraft. Once on the plane, first-class passengers traveling on one of our A330s stretch out in comfort on our 180-degree flat beds. We are the first among Middle East–based airlines to introduce the flat bed. Passengers have their own personal telephone, power port for a laptop and a personal in-seat television monitor. Passengers also receive a feather duvet, slippers, pajamas and an overnight amenity kit. As far as inflight cuisine, Qatar Airways’ firstclass service centers on 10-course meals that typically include caviar, lobster, prawns, Arabic mezzas, fine chocolates, cheese platters, freshly brewed cappuccinos and the finest wines from the old and new worlds.
In private research, the airline-quality monitor Skytrax ranked our business-class service as one of the best in the world. Business-class travelers are offered priority check-in with a 66-pound baggage allowance. Business travelers also have access to the business-class lounge in the Doha airport, which serves beverages and a wide selection of hot and cold appetizers. When flying on our A330 aircraft, business-class passengers enjoy our business-class sleeper seats, which recline to 160 degrees and have an independent lumbar support and a foot massage bar. Business-class passengers enjoy six-course meals.
Qatar Airways is one of only three airlines in the world to be awarded a five-star ranking by Skytrax for high service standards and quality, also making Qatar Airways the only five-star Middle Eastern airline.
GT: What does the future hold for Qatar Airways?
JTH: Under the leadership of our chief executive office, Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways is one of the fastest growing airlines, operating one of the youngest fleets in the world to over 60 destinations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Asia. We will grow to 70 destinations by the end of 2005. Based in Doha, capital of the state of Qatar, we operate a fleet of 40 modern all-Airbus aircraft, averaging less than 3 years of age. In June 2003, we signed a $5.1 billion agreement with Airbus for an additional 34 aircraft, and by the end of 2008 we will be flying with a fleet of 52 aircraft. As the country of Qatar grows, economically and as a tourist destination, the future of Qatar Airways is very bright.
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