Charting the Rise of One of the Fastest Growing Airlines In The World

Qatar Airways is the national airline of the State of Qatar and one of the aviation industry’s big success stories. Operations began in 1994 when the airline was a small regional carrier servicing a handful of routes. The airline was re-launched in 1997 under the mandate of the country’s leader The Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who outlined a vision to turn Qatar Airways into a leading international airline with the highest standards of service and excellence.


Qatar Airways has since become one of the fastest growing carriers in the world with unprecedented expansion averaging double digit growth year on year that industry peers can only admire with envy. It was named Airline of the Year in 2011 by the Skytrax Airline Global Industry Audit.

The airline, which is 50 per cent government-owned and 50 per cent under the private sector, has developed under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker, appointed CEO in 1996, who has been instrumental in turning Qatar Airways into an award-winning carrier and the best in the world.

Under Al Baker’s stewardship, Qatar Airways has matured into a leading force in regional and global aviation, earning many admirers around the world for its excellent standards of service.

In April 2011, Qatar Airways reached a milestone reaching 100 destinations in its global route map. Two months later, the airline achieved a remarkable feat, just 14 years after its relaunch, being named Airline of the Year 2011 at the annual Skytrax World Airline Awards with over 18 million travellers worldwide casting their votes. In October 2011, Qatar Airways attained another key milestone by taking delivery of its 100th aircraft.

During the Dubai Air Show in November 2011, Qatar Airways placed orders (firm and options) for 90 aircraft, comprising 80 of Airbus’ new A320 Neos, an additional eight A380 super jumbos and two Boeing 777 freighters.

Today, the award-winning airline has orders for over 250 aircraft worth more than US$50 billion.

Global Network and Expansion

From Qatar Airways’ hub in Doha, the country’s capital, the airline has developed a global network of over destinations, covering Europe, Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Asia Pacific, North America and South America with a modern fleet of over 100 passenger and cargo aircraft.

In March 2009, Qatar Airways launched the longest flight in its global network – scheduled daily services from Doha to Houston marking its third US destination – with a flying time of around 16 hours to make it one of the longest non-stop flights in the world.

During 2010, Qatar Airways launched flights to 10 new destinations including: Bengaluru (Bangalore), Tokyo, Ankara, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Phuket, Hanoi and Nice.

Between January and May 2011, Qatar Airways launched five new routes, expanding to Bucharest, Budapest, Brussels, Stuttgart and Aleppo, the latter becoming Qatar Airways’ milestone 100th destination which started on April 6.

In June of last year, the carrier expanded its network further with the launch of three new routes from Doha – twice-weekly flights to its third Iranian destination of Shiraz; daily flights to Venice marking its third Italian point; and its entry into Canada with thrice-weekly flights to Montreal.

During the second half of 2011, Qatar Airways expanded in Saudi Arabia with its fourth gateway to the holy city of Medina, operating four weekly flights; daily to Kolkata (Calcutta); and the Bulgarian capital Sofia .

Last October, flights to the Norwegian capital Oslo were launched and in November flights were commenced to Benghazi in Libya, Entebbe in Uganda and Chongqing (the carrier’s fifth gateway in China).

Young Fleet

From only four aircraft in 1997, the airline grew to a fleet size of 28 aircraft by the end of 2003 and a milestone 50 by October 2006. Today the airline operates over 100 aircraft. By 2013, the fleet size will rise to more than 120 aircraft.

Qatar Airways has one of the industry’s youngest fleets with an average aircraft age under four years old. The Qatar Airways family includes several different Airbus and Boeing aircraft types – the long-range Boeing 777 passenger and freighter aircraft, Airbus A340, A330, A300, A300F freighter, A321, A320 and A319. The latter A319 includes a corporate jet version.

The company also operates corporate jets, including Bombardier Challenger 605s, Bombardier Global 5000s and a Global Express XRS, for its executive subsidiary Qatar Executive, launched in 2009.

Qatar Airways currently has over 250 new aircraft worth more than US$50 billion pending delivery over the next few years. This includes an order for Airbus’ new generation A350s, A320 Neos, A380s and Boeing 787s.

Qatar Airways is one of the launch customers of the twin-deck Airbus A380-800 “super jumbo” – the world’s biggest aircraft capable of carrying 555 passengers in a luxurious configuration. Qatar Airways has ordered 13 A380s with a delivery schedule beginning in 2012. 3

Premium Terminal

In line with the company’s philosophy to be innovative, the airline operates the world’s only dedicated commercial passenger terminal exclusively for its First and Business Class passengers at Doha International Airport.

The US$90 million Premium Terminal, built in just nine months, opened in November 2006. It features facilities such as sit-down check-in for First and Business Class passengers, a spa, Jacuzzi, duty free shopping, business centre, fine dining restaurants, delicatessen and a cocktail bar.

The innovative Premium Terminal facilities are designed to provide Qatar Airways’ most loyal customers with the best levels of comfort and hospitality prior to catching their flight. Open round-the-clock, 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week, the stand-alone facility is seen as an industry benchmark in premium class travel experience.

Due to the rapid expansion of Qatar Airways, the Premium Terminal was expanded in 2009 to accommodate over 80 per cent additional seating space.

Global Achievements

Qatar Airways is proud to have been named Airline of the Year 2011 in the annual Skytrax World Airline Awards. Over 18 million travellers worldwide cast their votes in the survey by the leading global airline industry audit.

Having been elevated to third best airline in the world by Skytrax last year, announcement of the 2011 results in June ranking Qatar Airways as Airline of the Year was a culmination of sheer dedication and hard work by the airline’s workforce under the leadership of its Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker.

Already ranked Five Star for service excellence by Skytrax, the independent aviation industry monitoring agency confirmed Qatar Airways as Best Airline in the Middle East for the sixth year in a row and Best First Class Lounge for its Premium Terminal at its Doha hub – a facility for exclusive use by Qatar Airways’ First and Business Class passengers.


Qatar Airways was the first airline in the world to pass the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit with a maximum 100 per cent compliance in 2003 and passed the test again during the two-year renewal period in 2005, 2007, 2009 and, in June 2011.

The audit was set up to standardise and rationalise a number of safety and security procedures carried out by individual airlines for the purpose of codesharing. Qatar Airways was assessed on flight and ground operations, aircraft engineering, maintenance, operational security, cabin operations and management systems.

New Doha International Airport

In order to cope with the airline’s growth strategy, more than US$1 billion is being invested in infrastructure improvements at Doha International Airport, Qatar Airways’ operational hub. This includes a new transit terminal, extension of the existing Premium Terminal for Qatar Airways’ First and Business Class passengers, new arrivals terminal, new terminal for foreign airlines and additional aircraft parking bays.

The New Doha International Airport, located four kilometres from the existing airport will open this year at a cost of US $14.5 billion with an initial capacity of 28 million passengers a year. Construction work began in January 2005. Once fully developed beyond 2015, the airport is expected to handle up to 50 million passengers a year. One of the project’s key features is that 60 per cent of the site is 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.

Corporate Social Responsibility

As an industry leader, Qatar Airways and its group of companies strive to lead the charge towards environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility. The airline is one of the leaders in new-generation fuel research and gives back to the communities in which we serve.

Qatar Airways goes beyond the current industry best practices for fuel and environmental management and is making a serious effort to ensure a sustainable future for the airline, its staff and its neighbourhoods.

The airline administers an innovative “Five Pillar Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy” which embraces Change Management, Communication, Environment, Integrated Fuel Management and Sustainable Development.

Qatar Airways “Five Pillar” strategy is designed to limit the airline’s impact on global climate change, noise, local air quality, non-renewable resources and waste.


Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker announces the carrier’s 2012 expansion plans during a press conference in Dubai.

Myanmar and Iraq are among the highlights of Qatar Airways’ announcement of launch dates for new routes in the Middle East, Africa and Asia with capacity hikes being introduced to a number of other international destinations from the carrier’s Doha hub.

Speaking at the recent Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the Middle East’s premier travel trade event in Dubai, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker unveiled the expansion plans covering a wide network of markets across the carrier’s global network.

Scheduled flights to Iraq began on May 23 with Erbil in the north, followed two weeks later by services to the capital Baghdad on June 7. Each route will be served with four-flights-a-week non-stop from Doha.

Effective July 25, the airline will launch flights to Kilimanjaro, its second gateway in Tanzania. The daily services will operate via Nairobi.

Beginning August 15, Qatar Airways introduces its third African destination of 2012 with the launch of flights to the holiday centre of Mombasa – its second point in Kenya after the capital Nairobi. Each of the daily services will operate via the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam. In March, Qatar Airways began flights to Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali, the carrier‘s first African route of the year.

And starting October 3, Qatar Airways resumes operations to Myanmar following a four-year absence on the route, linking Doha with the capital Yangon. With political reform taking place in Myanmar at a rapid pace, interest in the South East Asian country has gathered momentum from both a business and tourism perspective.

New route Perth is experiencing excellent sales for its thrice-weekly flights which begin on July 3 – the carrier’s second Australian gateway after Melbourne. The Perth route goes daily in December at the peak of the holiday season.

Qatar Airways has already launched flights to the European capital cities of Baku in Azerbaijan and Tbilisi in Georgia. Starting May 9, the airline’s European expansion continues with daily flights to the Croatian capital Zagreb, operating via Budapest. Further route launches are planned to Belgrade in Serbia, the Finnish capital Helsinki and Zanzibar in Tanzania.

In line with the airline’s strategy to increase frequency on existing routes to offer passengers more choice, Qatar Airways is also stepping up capacity to selected destinations in phases.

In Asia, the Kuala Lumpur route will be served three-times daily from September, up from the recently-expanded capacity of 17 flights each week.

In Europe, the Doha – Milan route will be upgraded to double daily this month from the current 11-a-week. In December, the Doha – Paris route will have an additional two flights taking frequency up to 18 services-a-week.

In the Middle East, three routes will benefit from additional capacity. Kuwait last month saw the introduction of a new daily flight taking frequency up to 49 services each week. From June, an extra seven flights will be operated on the route taking capacity up to 56 services – eight daily round-trip flights every week.

Also in June, the Doha – Abu Dhabi route will go up to 42 flights each week with the introduction of a new daily service offering in total six daily flights.

Having introduced two extra weekly flights on the Doha – Cairo route last month to take frequency up to 11 each week, capacity will be stepped up further next month with the addition of one extra flight a week.

And in Africa, more capacity will be introduced on the double daily Doha – Dar es Salaam route from next month. With seven services operating via Nairobi, these will become non-stop to Dar es Salaam effectively providing more seats direct to the Tanzanian capital.

In March, Qatar Airways introduced frequency hikes to other destinations – namely London Heathrow, up from four to five flights-a-day; the Algerian capital Algiers from seven to 11 services each week; Muscat in Oman from 24 to 31 flights each week; and the Indonesian capital of Jakarta from seven to 10 services a week.

The airline’s Doha hub will continue to facilitate passenger and cargo traffic to all parts of the world, offering convenient connections across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.

“This announcement reflects the importance Qatar Airways places on expanding its portfolio of destinations and frequency on existing routes to provide passengers with more choice, more flexibility and more travel options,” said Al Baker, addressing a packed press conference at the Dubai Convention and Exhibition Centre.

“We are entering new markets and strengthening our presence in established markets to provide a greater footprint. In particular, we are focusing on markets that are in need of extra capacity.

“The changing political landscape in Myanmar presents tremendous business opportunities and Qatar Airways is extremely delighted to be re-entering this wonderful destination that clearly will be one of the hottest markets in Asia for travellers from across our diverse international network.

“Iraq too provides many opportunities as infrastructure improvements taking place across the country prompt more international travel to support economic reform.”

Added Al Baker: “This year alone will see Qatar Airways take delivery of one new aircraft every 15 days, so there are plenty of opportunities to look at inducting them into service on both new and well established routes.”

Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in just 15 years of operation, currently operating a modern fleet of 108 aircraft to 114 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.