When the Saudi city promoted Qatar Airways



Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

Published — Saturday 1 December 2012

Last update 30 November 2012 11:55 pm

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The aviation industry is the most volatile business and the least predictable. In the past 30 years, the industry has seen many airlines, which ruled the skies for many years, but when landed, they never took off again. They may be seen in the aviation history books only; and such examples galore: Pan Am, Eastern, TWA, Brannif International and many others.
In modern day aviation history, many national airlines around the world can’t survive without government subsidies. In the 1990’s, many airlines filed for bankruptcy while only budget airlines remained the choice. It had room for trial and error and they paid the pilots and employees peanuts. In order for an airline to succeed it must fly to many destinations, have large population around its main hub, and have good management.
Thirty years ago, if an aviation expert predicted seeing a National Airline in the State of Qatar, then he might lose the job. The State of Qatar has very small populations and the farthest distance between any Qatari cities is less than one hundred kilometers. Then, Qatar was one of four partners of Gulf Airline with Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Oman. The Doha Airport was the smallest, having the least number of passengers and was the least developed airport in the Gulf region. Saudi Airlines and Kuwait Airways were masters of the Gulf sky. But, all that changed on Jan. 20, 1994. On this date, the State of Qatar asked the very well established Kuwait Airways for one plane to be wet leased as nucleus to establish an airline in Qatar that didn’t even have an office.
Media didn’t take notice. But, the event was first taken note of in Al-Ahsa, a Saudi city in the Eastern Province, which is only about 200 kilometers from Doha. It is the largest oasis in the world and has the largest number of palm trees with large populations. I was present when some travel agents in Al-Ahsa were debating if they should become sole agents for this new airline, because no one predicted to see it covering beyond the capital cities of the Gulf states. And even when the Qatar Airways expanded two years later, there was a hope this airline will land at Al-Ahsa regional airport and thus become an international airport. Sometimes later, there were many promotional offers by the Qatar Airways to encourage passengers from Saudi Arabia and ironically, many people in Al-Ahsa were the ones behind the scenes who promoted this airline and many of them drove the 200 kilometers to fly this new airline. This is a fact that many officials of the top management in Qatar Airways are most likely not aware of. There is something else that again the management may not be aware of is that there was a rumor then circulated in Al-Ahsa in 1997 when Qatar bought some planes from Airbus. The reason for their low-cost tickets is because the Airways wasn’t an IATA member; and if you lose your luggage, you will not be compensated. If my memory serves me right, in 1997, Mr. Akbar Al-Baker was assigned to become the CEO of Qatar Airways. An airline that flies to many parts of the world, but it doesn’t have any domestic flight routes. And it doesn’t have any flight to Al-Ahsa, a city that knew and heard of the establishment of Qatar Airways even before many Qataris.
Now, the story of the Qatar Airways is different. It is the most modern day successful aviation story. I flew in many airlines including the Qatar Airways. And it is very easy to fall in love with this airline. This airline covers your needs regardless of whether a passenger is flying to close a business deal; family members on vacation; or a simple traveler heading to his/her hometown. The Qatar Airways flies to more than 100 destinations all over the world with more than 100 aircrafts with different sizes and with an average age of less than 5 years. Not many airlines have this privilege.
Even though I only flew few times on this airline, my most enjoyable time when flying this airline is when I see the employees go the extra mile to assist you on the ground or on the plane. In other words, they look after you before and after the flight. Some aviation experts say, the reason for Qatar Airways’ success is attributed to huge government subsidies, but, there are many world airlines that receive subsidies and couldn’t’ achieve what the Qatar Airways accomplish in a very short time. Also, the smile and the professionalism of any airline employees are not achieved by government subsidies.
National airlines are virtually the best ambassadors for any country. In the golden year of Pan Am and TWA, the presence of the Boeing-747 Jumbo Jets reflects the relation between the United States and the country these airlines fly to and they show the world the achievements of the American Aviation Industries. In the past, when a British or French Concord with the colors of the British or French flag on its tail are ready for takeoff or landing, then all heads will turn and conversations will be halted. That was in the past. Nowadays, Qatar Airways planes are flying the Qatari flag beyond its borders and introducing the world to the Qatari national animal, the Oryx and now Qatar Airways one of seven airlines around the world that are named 5 stars airline. Now, the world aviation experts are wondering, how did the Qataris do it?

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