DUBAI: Qatar Airways could expand its number of destinations to 190 from 177 currently under plans for rapid growth, but its ability to do so depends on the delivery of additional aircraft, the Gulf carrier’s CEO said on Monday.
“It all depends (on) when we receive further aircraft deliveries. It might turn out to be 190 (destinations),” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker told reporters at a press conference during the Arabian Travel Market conference in Dubai.
The airline expects plane makers Boeing and Airbus to begin delivering soon, he said. Previously he said delivery delays had prompted the airline to make conservative growth plans.
Airbus in March reinstated an order for 73 aircraft from Qatar Airways which it had revoked during a major legal dispute over damage to the surface of grounded A350s.
The airline and plane maker settled the dispute in February, and Al-Baker expects to begin receiving the aircraft in the “not too distant future.”
Qatar Airways is also experiencing delayed delivery of Boeing 787 and 777X planes, Al-Baker added. He said the 787 delays had been caused by “unnecessary” concerns raised by the US Federal Aviation Administration.
Boeing in February temporarily halted delivery of new 787 aircraft to conduct additional analysis of a fuselage component amid the FAA’s concerns.
Al-Baker said he looked forward to cooperating with Riyadh Air, Saudi Arabia’s newly announced national airline, which aims to compete head-to-head with regional carriers like Qatar Airways.
“There is a lot of business around for everybody ... We will cooperate with them and support them,” he said, without specifying how.
Responding to a question from Arab News on how Qatar Airways will meet the 21 percent increase in flights by July 2023, Al-Baker said: “When we estimate a figure, we are conservative; it could be even higher because we see a resurgence in demand for travel and with the superior product we have.”
He added that people want to fly Qatar Airways because of how it operated when the entire airline industry during the pandemic was grounded.
“Qatar Airways was the only hope for millions of people to go to their homes,” Al-Baker continued.
The Gulf carrier also announced its connectivity to Tabouk in Saudi Arabia and the resumption of flights to Yanbu.