BERLIN: Qatar Airways announced plans for rapid growth on Tuesday, as the travel industry recovers from the pandemic.
Announcing objectives at the ITB tourism fair in Berlin, the Gulf carrier said it would add seven destinations, restore 11 others and boost the frequency of flights to 35 markets — marking a 21 percent rise in flights by July 2023, compared with the same month last year.
Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker, speaking in his first appearance since settling a major legal dispute with Airbus, said the airline was being conservative because of its dependence on deliveries from Airbus or Boeing amid supply woes.
"Unfortunately, it is not in their hands; I think supply chain problems will last a bit longer," Al Baker told a news conference during the world's largest tourism expo.
Newly planned airline destinations include five in Europe, including three in France, and two in Africa.
"The aviation industry is slowly rebounding ... (from) unprecedented pressures," Al Baker said.
Al Baker noted upward inflationary pressure on ticket prices but said the airline was not passing on all fuel increases.
Al Baker, whose roles include tourism minister of Qatar, also announced a campaign to increase visitors to the Gulf state, building on attention from hosting the 2022 soccer World Cup to boost its domestic tourism industry.
He said Qatar aimed to increase the number of annual visitors threefold compared to 2019 levels to six to seven million, with a target of contributing to 10 percent of its economy.
Gulf analysts say the small peninsula state faces stiff competition from neighboring Dubai, an international tourist destination, as well as from Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom opens up and invests heavily in tourism and entertainment.
Al Baker said Qatar had been the target of disinformation and vigorously defended its performance in staging the World Cup. He lashed out at media coverage surrounding the event.
Airbus meanwhile also said on Tuesday it had reinstated orders for 73 aircraft from Qatar Airways after revoking them during a dispute over damage to the surface of grounded A350s.
Airbus and Qatar Airways settled the dispute at the end of January, averting a rare and potentially damaging UK court trial in the jet sector.
Qatar Airways chief called the settlement a "win-win".