Qatar Airways Adds Basra and Sulaymaniyah to Iraqi Network

As part of its ongoing network expansion Qatar Airways has revealed it will add two further destinations to its network in Iraq with the launch of direct flights from its Doha International Airport hub to the port city of Basra in the south of the country and the city of Sulaymaniyah in the north.  This brings its network in Iraq to five destinations with existing links being offered to Baghdad, Erbil and Najaf.

Qatar Airways began operations to Iraq last summer with initial flights to the capital Baghdad and Erbil and in January this year added services to Najaf.  It currently operates 12 flights a week across the three Iraqi cities but will increase this to 20 flights with the introduction of a four times weekly link to Basra from June 3, 2013 and a four times weekly flight to Sulaymaniyah from August 20, 2013.  Both routes will be operated with an Airbus A320 arranged with 144 seats in a two-class configuration of 12 seats in Business Class and 132 in Economy.

As part of its strategy to enter underserved markets, Qatar Airways says demand for greater air services to Iraq is being fuelled by the ongoing reconstruction drive in the country.  “With today’s announcement of flights starting to the cities of Basra and Sulaymaniyah this summer, Qatar Airways is offering new travel options to the people of Iraq and for those involved in the reconstruction efforts of the country,” said Akbar Al Baker, chief executive officer, Qatar Airways. 

“After years of restricted air access for foreign airlines in many parts of Iraq, Qatar Airways has been working with the authorities to open up services and are delighted to have expanded our operations there in such a short space of time, doing our bit in the country’s rebuilding efforts,” he added.

According to Qatar Airways the schedules for the flights to both new Iraqi destinations have been specially timed to provide good connection opportunities to key destinations across the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific.  MIDT data shows that 2.08 million bi-directional O&D passengers travelled in and out of Iraq in 2012, up a massive 63.8 per cent on the previous year.  The largest passenger flows in 2012 were to United Arab Emirates (17.7 per cent), Turkey (17.3 per cent) and Jordan (8.7 per cent). 

“After years of restricted air access for foreign airlines in many parts of Iraq, Qatar Airways has been working with the authorities to open up services and are delighted to have expanded our operations there in such a short space of time, doing our bit in the country‚Äôs rebuilding efforts.”

Akbar Al Baker
Chief Executive Officer, Qatar Airways

Although Qatar accounted for just 1.2 per cent of the total O&D demand in and out of Iraq, the wider network of Qatar Airways will provide good connection opportunities to support to point-to-point traffic, particularly into Europe where there are strong passenger flows into the United Kingdom (6.1 per cent), Sweden (5.5 per cent) and Germany (4.2 per cent).  The airline could also feed the growing markets of India, China and other destinations across the GCC.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways has reinforced its position as to its plans for the new Hamad International Airport, which will open its first phase of facilities on April 1, 2013.  The airline will be the principle operator at the new facility, but will not move its entire operations from the current Doha International Airport until later this year.  It, like 19 other airlines will continue to use the existing facility, although ten airlines will move their activities as the soft opening of the Concourse B at Hamad International takes place. 

The initial airline list includes the mainly point-to-point and low-cost operators and comprises Air Arabia, Air India Express, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, flydubai, Iran Air, Nepal Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, RAK Airways, Syrian Air and Yemen Airways.  Together these carriers will offer around 32 passenger flights a day equating to approximately 222 flights per week.

“The State of Qatar is just days away from the opening of its brand new airport which will surely set the standards in the regional and global aviation industry.  This will be a memorable experience for passengers and visitors alike as we welcome the first few airlines to their new home on April 1 before Qatar Airways switches its entire operations to Hamad International by the end of the year,” said Al Baker.

In the table below we highlight the rapid growth of air services from the existing Doha International Airport and the reason a new international hub was required.  In the space of just eight years the number of available seats from Doha has more than trebled with double digit growth in all but one of these years: in 2011 capacity grew by ‘just’ 9.7 per cent, still significantly above market averages.  This dramatic expansion meant that in 2012, 14.8 million seats were provided from the airport, a figure that is forecasted to almost reach the 16 million seat figure this year.



Available Seat Capacity

% Change



12.1 %



9.7 %



22.4 %



11.9 %



17.6 %



16.6 %



18.7 %



14.5 %




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