Qatar Airways Announces A Bunch Of New Routes They’ll Probably Never Start

ITB Berlin (one of the world’s biggest travel trade shows) kicked off today, so you can expect lots of announcements from airlines. Qatar Airways unveiled their new Qsuites at last year’s ITB Berlin, which was probably the highlight of the show.

While the announcement this year isn’t quite as big, Qatar Airways has revealed service to several new destinations, due to commence in 2018-2019. New Qatar Airways destinations might include the following:

  • Cardiff, United Kingdom
  • London Gatwick, United Kingdom
  • Tallinn, Estonia
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Malaga, Spain
  • Thessaloniki, Greece
  • Valletta, Malta
  • Antalya, Turkey
  • Da Nang, Vietnam
  • Davao, Philippines
  • Langkawi, Malaysia
  • Cebu, Philippines
  • Luxembourg
  • Bodrum, Turkey

To be perfectly honest, I’m not exactly sure which routes Qatar Airways plans on launching. That’s not sloppy reporting on my part, but rather I don’t think Qatar Airways knows either:

  • During today’s press conference, Al Baker mentioned about a dozen cities, claiming that “all these are new destinations previously not announced.” The problem is that this isn’t true, because at a minimum the airline announced flights to Cardiff, Lisbon, Mykonos, and Thessaloniki last year, all of which he mentioned.
  • On Qatar Airways’ Instagram story, the airline says that they’re starting flights to Bodrum, Turkey, and Luxembourg, though Al Baker doesn’t mention those cities

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Even if Qatar Airways did give a full list of new routes they were launching, we couldn’t really trust it, since the airline is notorious for announcing new destinations and then not following through on the service.

For example, last April Qatar Airways announced flights to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Cardiff, Malaga, Mykonos, Accra, Kiev, Lisbon, Prague, Chittagong, Mombasa and Abidjan.

How did the airline do?

  • The San Francisco, Las Vegas, Accra, Mombasa, Abidjan, and Chittagong flights never happened (well, unless what they intended all along was a Qatar Airways-coded 8hr30min overnight bus ride to Dhaka — see below)
  • The Cardiff, Lisbon, and Malaga flights are being “recycled” again this year as “never before announced” routes

So I guess my point is that they might start some of the above routes, they might not, we don’t really know. I do wish they’d get into a habit of announcing routes when they actually intend to launch them, and not just listing off destinations like Howard Dean at a rally.

I’d say the most interesting addition here is Qatar Airways adding flights to London Gatwick. The airline flew to London Gatwick until 2011, and then pulled out. They claimed that they largely relied on US carriers for connecting traffic there, but with the introduction of Open Skies, US airlines moved from Gatwick to Heathrow.

Now that Qatar Airways owns a stake in IAG (the parent company of British Airways), they believe they’ll be able to make London Gatwick work. The airline intends to launch the route as of May 22, 2018.

Of their Gulf rivals, Etihad just flies to London Heathrow, while Emirates flies to London Heathrow, London Gatwick, and as of this summer, to London Stansted.

What do you make of Qatar Airways’ expansion?

Comments

  1. Hope Qatar airways can launch direct flights to Taipei, Taiwan, and join the party at TPE with emirates’ existing A380 service!

  2. WE know Qatar will be flying to Thessaloniki and a couple others, but it’s true that they seem to be announcing some routes that probably won’t end up materializing.

  3. Langkawi needs to finish their airport upgrade first – currently it’ll be overcrowded if Qatar operated an ATR-42 let alone a 787! I could imagine them operating it with Da Nang as a double drop

  4. @ Lucky

    Curious as to why QR hasn’t arrived at SFO yet? I think their new A350 w/ Qsuites would do well with the techie crowd. If they are worried about competition from Emirates, they should consider SJC instead.

    Thoughts?

  5. London Gatwick is already loaded into the booking system. Luxembourg would indeed be interesting for QR: 1) No other ME3 flies there; 2) lots of folks with money that would pay for one stop options to Asia, Africa, and Oceania; 3) EK or EY won’t fly there due to the lack of sufficiently small airplanes (right now the biggest airplane capable of using a finger are 737s and A320s). Turkish seems to do quite well there.

    Lisbon, Malaga, Thessaloniki, Valletta, Antalya, Da Nang, Davao, Langkawi, Cebu, Bodrum, and Tallinn do makes sense too insofar that Qatar currently has plenty of A320 that have to fly somewhere….

    Cardiff is the oddball in my book…

  6. @Lucky, according to Israeli and Indian sources this morning, Air India officially acknowledged that they would start the Delhi – Tel Aviv route by flying over Saudi Airspace starting March 22 for thrice weekly flights. How do you think Qatar feels that Saudi is allowing an Israeli bound plane to fly over Saudi airspace (a country they officially don’t recognize) yet won’t allow Qatari planes to use their airspace?

    In my mind, it seems that some of these short-haul routes that Qatar is promoting (Mykonos, Thessaloniki and Bodrum) are being utilized simply because Qatar is scrambling to find places that fit in their A320 range that are not being utilized fully since they aren’t flying to Saudi, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

    https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/air-india-delhi-tel-aviv-thrice-weekly-nonstop-from-march-22/articleshow/63203266.cms

  7. Can a A320 fly from Qatar to Lisbon? If so, that’s fine. I don’t know if there’s enough market for another flight to the middle east using a wide body, specially now that Emirates will go double daily to Lisbon.

  8. The LGW flight is already bookable (QR330), showing as operated by a 787-9. LGW offers different market opportunities to LHR (which isn’t the easiest airport to get to from some parts of southern England). I’m hoping Qatar will follow Emirates to Stansted, too.

    The odd-looking shorter-range routes are presumably opportunistic destinations to try to soak-up some of that spare narrow-body capacity that Qatar has, following the boycott.

  9. @Mauricio Matos: Yes it can. I was however under the impression that it would be the kind of destination that QR could send an A330/787 to it. Other destinations (e.g. LUX) are clearly way to small for widebody but could do quite well with narrow bodies, something QR has too many of.

  10. @Potato I have my doubts because if I remember right, Emirates used to fly twice daily to Lisbon in 2016, then stopped, and now it’s starting again in a couple of months. That’s with 777. I don’t know about another flight with a wide body to that region. There’s also the 2 daily flights to IST with Turkish.

  11. Well it’s the fact that these announcement was before the unexpected blockade started in June (..For example, last April Qatar Airways announced flights to San Francisco…) Hence in my opinion it’s very normal that the carrier might review and even delay the starting dates.

  12. @Matt: Frankly, I don’t see that happening. Qatar will undoubtedly bail them out before that happens. The state of Qatar has too much skin in the game to let them go bust.

  13. “lots of folks with money that would pay for one stop options to Asia, Africa, and Oceania”

    Don’t people in Luxembourg already have one options for the first two via other European carriers?

  14. Cardiff would be a great move by any airline, well Bristol to be honest.
    I heard that Bristol airport does not have very good cargo facilities and that is why they went with Cardiff.

    The South west is a wealthy area and most people from here have to commute to London for any international flight, mainly because Cardiff and Bristol serve mainly vacation destinations and nothing else.

    Any of the ME3 could fly a 787 into these airports and connect, I personally think it would be a great route.

  15. I was surprised to see Tallinn on the list.

    Neighbouring Latvia (Riga) would seem more obvious choice. Only competitor there seems to be Air Baltic which operates to Abu Dhabi in co-operation with Etihad.

    Qatar also already operates twice a day to Helsinki, Finland – which is easy to reach from Tallinn due to multiple daily ferries.

    But if they choose to fly to Estonia…TLL had 2,6 million pax last year, RIX had 6 million and HEL had 18,8 million.

    Route _could_ be profitable using a smaller plane.

  16. Qatar used to fly to London Gatwick previously but dropped it around 2010/11. Not sure why they dropped it or why they are restarting it now?

  17. @EJ

    Lot of long haul leisure demand out of Estonia given current economic boom.

    Some people travel via HEL but not very convenient, still about 20% of QR HEL flights filled with Estonians.

    Latvia and Lithuania have considerably lower purchasing power but of course the number of people is higher, RIX airport has more short haul demand.

    Air Baltic is not comparable to Qatar Airways in terms of quality, totally different market segments. Estonian higher end customer will not fly Air Baltic, and certainly not their route to AUH.

  18. @Juno Sure but not to the same extend. QR flies to plenty of smaller destinations in Asia and Africa where you’d have to change planes twice from a smaller European airport. TK launched a similar service years ago and they seem to do rather well.

  19. @EJ

    QR is in relationship with airBaltic already (they have ticketing agreement,etc).
    They are even in QRs routing fares (BT to Stockholm or Copenhagen,then QR to DOH and beyond).
    If they’d add RIX they could connect a lot of European destinations if there was a reroute needed. (e.g. if a passenger has DOH-CPH leg cancelled,they can reroute him DOH-RIX-CPH (intra-europe on BT).

  20. @Juno – Yes, people in Luxembourg have several options for one-stop long haul flights on one carrier: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich, Zürich, Lisbon, Warsaw, Istanbul. I’d be delighted to see Qatar Airways serving Luxembourg but I am still dismayed by the airline’s withdraw a couple of years ago from Osaka after a squabble with the airport over landing times. My wife and I travel between Luxembourg and Osaka half a dozen times a year. The service on other airlines has never quite matched the service we experienced when using QR regularly.

  21. @Jay:
    Brisbane is in Australia. The place where the frequent flyer’s university will be held. It was also the city that hosted G20 in 2014. It’s the 3rd largest city in Australia where ME3 has a strong market. BNE is also a gateway to Gold Coast, the 6th largest city, as its only 1hr drive. Gold Coast will host this year’s Commonwealth Game in just under a month.

    QR flies to all major cities in Australia including SYD, MEL (both A380), PER (another A380 coming soon), ADL and CBR. I don’t know any other country in the world in which QR would service 3 of its small fleet of A380, showing how important the market is for QR. However, BNE being an important hub for the 3rd and 6th largest city is still being ignored. While PER being 4th gets an A380 and ADL being 5th (population less than 1/2 of BNE) gets A350. CBR has 1/5 of the population and will soon get a new 77W with Q suite. Just give you an idea how important Australia is to QR.

    As a comparison, EK flies 3x daily with one A380. EY has daily 787 to BNE so it’s not a small market.

  22. Actually, as per the revised Philippines-Qatar air services agreement signed last year, they are obligated to start CEB and DVO lest they lose their extra MNL frequency entitlements. So I don’t expect them to put said routes off.

  23. @Michael – Qatar Airways have used-up all the rights between Qatar and Australia. Under the agreement they are limited to 40 weekly flights (citation needed) from Qatar to the major cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth. Out of those cities they can fly to wherever they like (Adelaide, Canberra). With 2 daily Sydney flights, and A380s also to MEL and PER, they’ve exhausted the agreement. I’d like to see them send an A350 to BNE, hopefully in the future.

  24. Never say Never.I was most surprised to hear about them starting an Adelaide service some years back now given my workplace does the non food side of the catering for them.we send out cutlery napkins,salt and pepper packs in both economy and business class for Qatar.I look forward later this year to flying them to Budapest via Doha on their A350 AND A320 AND RETURN OUT OF MUNICH ON THE A350 to see well they stack up.

  25. for sure that they are going to fly to cebu and davao using the triangular route from doha.

    the reason its sure is that their additional frequency into manila is at stake. from the most current air talks (2017) between manila and doha, qatar was provided an additional frequency into manila as long as they will launch cebu and davao within 1 year of launching that additional frequency . if they fail to launch cebu and davao, that 1 frequency into manila will be axed by the air authority of manila.

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