New Flight Options Available between Qatar and China

Officials from Qatar and China have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to increase the number of flights that can operate between the two countries following two days of talks in the Chinese capital of Beijing, according to the officials in the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority.  The agreement was signed by the Qatari chairman of the General Authority for Civil Aviation, Abdulaziz Mohammed Al Nuaimi and China’s Deputy Director of the Department of Civil Aviation, Chia Hengoa.

Under the terms of the revised bilateral agreement, which remains to be ratified, airlines from both countries will be permitted to increase the number of their respective weekly flights from 27 to 31, while increasing cargo flights to seven flights a week and represents the first change in the legislation since 1999.

Recent figures released by Chinese Government officials reveal that bilateral trade between China and Qatar increased by 45 per cent in 2012, totaling $8.45 billion.  Imports from Qatar accounted for $7.2 billion of this total and primarily included primarily imported oil and gas, but annual exports to the sovereign Arab state have also grown to $1.2 billion and covered a wide range of products, including construction materials, electrical products, furniture and household items.

Looking to the future, the two countries have signed a number of agreements aimed at promoting bilateral trade and investment.  While Qatar has established offices in Shanghai and Beijing to facilitate the growth in bilateral trade and investment, Chinese companies are involved in the development of the Doha Port in Qatar, as well as in the construction and development of the new, futuristic Lusail City, located on the coast to the north of Doha.  

China's Industrial Commercial Bank of China Middle East is making inroads into Qatar's financial sector while agreements between the two countries will result in China becoming increasingly involved in Qatar's development projects.  A new retail complex located on Barwa Commercial Avenue in Qatar's capital city Doha, covering an area of 20,000 square meters is also being constructed.  It will feature more than a hundred shops, all selling exclusively 'Made in China' products acting as a gateway for Chinese goods into the rapidly developing region.

Although no Chinese carriers currently serve Qatar, the Arab state’s national carrier Qatar Airways has already reached its entitlement.  Alongside daily flights to Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, the carrier offers a three times weekly link to Chongqing and will introduce a three times weekly flight to Chengdu later this year having delayed the route’s launch due to the existing grounding of its Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet and the subsequent redeployment of fleet capacity.  Under the tentative agreement Qatar Airways will have rights to four additional weekly frequencies so it could increase its Chongqing and Chengdu routes to a daily schedule, boost capacity in its three core markets, or even introduce another destination to its network.

According to MIDT data, an estimated 65,000 bi-directional O&D passengers travelled between Qatar and China in 2012, up 46.6 per cent on the previous year.  Around 23,000 flew between Doha and Beijing; approximately 15,000 between Doha and Gaungzhou; an estimated 12,000 between Doha and Shanghai and just under 14,000 between Doha and Chongqing, in 2012. 

However, as we are all aware the Qatar Airways business model is not based directly on point-to-point demand and this actually accounts for only 9.2 per cent of the carrier’s total traffic in and out of China, although it is the single largest market for the carrier.  In the table below we highlight the ten largest markets for O&D passengers on Qatar Airways’ flights in and out of China in 2012.

LARGEST ORIGIN & DESTINATION MARKETS ON QATAR AIRWAYS’ FLIGHTS IN & OUT OF CHINA (bi-directional O&D passengers: 2012)

Rank

Network Point

Estimated O&D Passengers

% Demand

1

Doha International Airport (DOH)

56,694

9.2 %

2

Lagos Murtala Muhammed (LOS)

41,731

6.8 %

3

Beirut Rafic Hariri International (BEY)

34,569

5.6 %

4

Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta (NBO)

24,601

4.0 %

5

Madrid Barajas (MAD)

21,886

3.5 %

6

Sao Paulo Guarulhos International (GRU)

21,705

3.5 %

7

Dammam King Fahd International (DMM)

18,768

3.0 %

8

London Heathrow (LHR)

17,977

2.9 %

9

Khartoum Civil (KRT)

17,702

2.9 %

10

Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International (ATH)

16,857

2.7 %

TOTAL

617,939

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