Monday 7 December 2009, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA - Qatar Airways is celebrating the launch of scheduled services to Australia following the airline’s inaugural flight into Melbourne last night.
The new Doha - Melbourne route signals the beginning of Qatar Airways’ operations to Australia, and adds another continent to the airline’s rapidly expanding global network. Melbourne becomes the award-winning airline’s 85th destination and fourth new route of 2009. The carrier plans to launch flights to Sydney next year.
On board the maiden flight QR030 from Doha was the airline’s Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker, who led a high-profile delegation, including the Australian Ambassador to the UAE and Qatar, His Excellency Doug Trappett, international media and senior company executives.
Qatar Airways is operating its newest aircraft - a Boeing 777-200LR delivered less than four weeks ago - on the route, flying initially three-times-a-week on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The Doha-based airline takes delivery of another Boeing 777-200 Long Range aircraft direct from Boeing’s Seattle manufacturing base this month and will use the aircraft on the Melbourne route, stepping up frequency to daily from 1 January 2010.
Victorian Government Minister of Tourism and Major Events, The Honourable Tim Holding provided an official welcome for Qatar Airways at the State Government Offices in Melbourne, where a joint press conference was held this morning.
Addressing the media, Al Baker said: “We have been eagerly planning our entry into the Australian market for several years - and we are delighted to finally arrive here in Melbourne.
“Qatar Airways would like to extend its appreciation and thanks to the Australian authorities that have worked tirelessly to pave the way for Qatar Airways to begin its operations.
“We have been in Australia for a number of years as an offline carrier with a sales office in the heart of the city of Melbourne, but today marks an historic moment as we extend our Five Star hospitality to yet another Continent in our global network. We also look forward to starting flights to Sydney next year.
“We believe our award-winning Five Star hospitality across both our Business and Economy cabins will appeal to the Australian market and people from around the world for this much anticipated route.
“Australians are well travelled and we are delighted to facilitate travel to and from Melbourne to many cities worldwide via our Doha hub in Qatar, whether people are travelling on business or leisure.”
Qatar Airways now operates scheduled flights from Doha to key business and leisure cities across Europe, Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Far East, North America and Australia. Since beginning operations in 1997, Qatar Airways has expanded its network rapidly earning the title of one of the fastest growing airlines in the world.
The launch of flights to Melbourne ahead of the busy holiday season ends a year of further growth for the airline, which also launched services to Houston and both Amritsar and Goa in India during 2009.
Added Al Baker: “We are entering the Australian market at a time of continued growth for an airline despite the current economic climate when many airlines worldwide are consolidating and retrenching. Our strategy is long-term, maintaining our expansion plans to meet demand and this will remain unaffected despite the events around us.
“With over 220 aircraft worth more than US$ 40 billion on order for delivery over the next few years, as well as a brand new airport under construction in the airline’s home city of Doha, Qatar Airways is moving from strength to strength.”
Al Baker said that Qatar Airways was looking forward to establishing a strong foothold in the Australian market, aiming to do so with the quickest scheduled flight times between Melbourne and London, its biggest market. At 21 hours, 40 minutes, including a short transit in Doha, Qatar Airways will offer Melbournians the most convenient and fastest way of travelling to the UK.
Minister Tim Holding said it was a fantastic milestone for Victoria’s tourism industry and for Melbourne as a leading gateway city to Australia to welcome Qatar’s national carrier to the city.
“The Brumby Government is working to increase international air services, which bring more tourists to Melbourne, boost our economy and create jobs for local people,” he said.
“Qatar Airways, which is one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, has shown confidence in Victoria by choosing Melbourne Airport as its first Australian destination and setting up its head office in Melbourne’s central business district, initially employing 25 people.
“More direct air services to Melbourne Airport help to bring more tourists to Victoria from overseas and also provide Victorians with access to more competitive international airfares.”
Melbourne is one of the fastest growing cities in Australia and is one of the most liveable in the world. Its population will overtake Sydney within 20 years according to forecasts and census data due to heightened economic activity. The city currently receives around 1.5 million international visitors every year. Economic trade between Qatar and Australia stands at around US$500 million per annum.
Over 30,000 Australians live and work in the Gulf region, and the new Melbourne route is expected to provide an additional travel option for expatriates returning home, as well as for tourists from Qatar and the Gulf region vacationing or visiting friends and relatives in Australia.
The Melbourne flights are operated using brand new Boeing 777-200 Long Range aircraft, with 42 seats in Business Class and 217 in Economy.
The 2-2-2 configured Business Class seats convert into 180 degree horizontal flat beds, each with a 78-inch pitch on par with First Class of many airlines. In Economy Class, the 3-3 -3 configuration means one less seat per row compared with competitors and a seat pitch of up to 34 inches offering unrivalled levels of space and comfort.
As part of the its growing presence in the Australian market, Qatar Airways plans to launch daily non-stop flights between Doha and Sydney in 2010, also using the Boeing 777-200 Long Range aircraft in the same configuration as on the Melbourne route.
With the world’s first dedicated passenger terminal for Qatar Airways’ First and Business Class passengers, built at a cost of almost US$100 million at Doha International Airport, the Premium Terminal has truly become an industry leader.
Built in just nine months, the 10,000sqm Premium Terminal with its serene water features offers facilities ranging from exclusive concierge-style seated check-in, duty-free shopping, conference rooms, nursery and play area to spa treatment rooms, saunas, jacuzzis and fine dining restaurants.
Passengers checking-in for their flight from Qatar Airways’ Premium Terminal or transiting through the terminal are able to use the award-winning facilities and relax in style before their journey.
Last month at the World Travel Awards in London, Qatar Airways once again beat stiff competition to win the World’s Best Business Class title as decided by thousands of travel professionals from over 180,000 travel agencies, transport companies and tourism organisations in over 160 countries worldwide.
Earlier this year, Qatar Airways scooped several accolades at the annual Skytrax passenger survey awards, including Best Economy Class in the world, Best Cabin Crew in the Middle East for the seventh year running and Best Airline in the Middle East for the fourth consecutive year. In addition, Qatar Airways’ overall Skytrax global ranking for 2009 rose to fourth in the world - the highest placing of any Middle East carrier.
Qatar Airways offers Australians a one-stop service to numerous destinations across Europe, Middle East and Africa. The airline currently operates a young and modern fleet of 72 aircraft to 85 cities worldwide, a figure set to rise sharply over the next few years. The airline’s fleet will increase to more than 120 aircraft by 2013 and destinations served are set to rise to over 120 in the next five years.