Qatar Airways Plans Further US Network Growth

The announced growth from Qatar Airways is sure to further anger the bosses of the three US majors – American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines – which are understood to remain disappointed at the level and speed of the US governments reaction to its claim of unfair state subsidies at the Gulf airlines.

Qatar Airways has announced the next phase of its United States route development with the introduction of three new passenger routes to Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta during 2016. With these new destinations, Qatar Airways will offer daily non-stop services to all ten of the largest metropolitan areas of the United States and its latest growth is sure to antagonise the US majors which are fighting through the ‘Partnership for Open and Fair Skies’ lobby group to stop, at least temporarily, the growth of the Gulf hub carriers into US skies.

The first new route will be to Los Angeles, a destination already served by Gulf hub rivals Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways from Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The airline will serve the second largest city in the United States with a daily Boeing 777 rotation from January 1, 2016. This will be followed by daily flights to Boston, the capital and largest city of Massachusetts, from March 16, 2016 using its new Airbus A350XWB equipment, while daily flights to Atlanta, Georgia, the business centre of the southeast region of the United States will commence from July 1, 2016, again using 777 equipment.

The Boston market is currently served by Emirates Airline, but Qatar Airways will be the first of the three major Gulf hub carriers to introduce non-stop links to Atlanta, albeit both Emirates and Etihad are understood to have the city on their radars for future growth.

Alongside the new routes, increasing passenger demand to America’s largest city and financial centre, New York, has prompted Qatar Airways to add a second daily service to the city from March 1, 2016, operated by an A350XWB. Qatar Airways has served the city daily since the initial route launch in 2007 and its current flight is operated by a 777.

"As Qatar Airways continues its global expansion, we are delighted to be offering even more gateways in the United States, connecting passengers from destinations across the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Southeast Asia,” said His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, Chief Executive, Qatar Airways Group.

"We look forward to offering a great travel experience to our US passengers on the World's Best Business Class across our network of more than 140 destinations, with a convenient one-stop transfer at the new state-of-the-art Hamad International Airport in Doha,” he added.

The airline has seen rapid growth in just 18 years of operation to the point where today it is flying a modern fleet of 156 aircraft to 146 key business and leisure destinations. Among the 146 destinations currently served are Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Mumbai, New Delhi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Jakarta and the Maldives – all with excellent connections from the US cities.

The announced growth from Qatar Airways is sure to further anger the bosses of the three US majors – American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines – which are understood to remain disappointed at the level and speed of the US governments reaction to its claim of unfair state subsidies at the Gulf airlines. They had previously called for an immediate freeze on the expansion of the Gulf carriers in the US market while the situation was properly debated and are disappointed the government has not frozen their expansion.

American Airlines CEO, Doug Parker, Delta Air Lines CEO, Richard Anderson and United Airlines CEO, Jeff Smisek recently jointly wrote to the secretaries of State, Commerce and Transportation, expressing alarm that the Gulf carriers have been permitted to add new flights to the US in the ten weeks since they first asked the government to investigate the subsidies case.

“In recent weeks, Emirates has announced new service from Dubai to Orlando (effective September 1), added a second daily flight from Dubai to Boston (effective October 1) and from Dubai to Seattle (effective July 7), and announced that it will upgauge its Milan-New York flight to a massive A380 (effective June 1),” said the correspondence.

“Beyond the announced new service, we understand that one or more Gulf carriers have contacted three additional US airports about starting new flights from the Gulf. These aggressive actions make requesting a freeze pending resolution even more urgent, because with every new US flight, the Gulf carriers not only harm US airlines and workers but also make reaching a negotiated solution more difficult,” the letter stated.

According to the executives the recent growth of the Gulf carriers in the US is a clear sign of them “taking advantage” in the delayed action from the government to “gain even more market share” before there is a reaction from the US.

In our analysis we look in more detail at the annual capacity the three major Gulf carriers are offering into the US market this year, based on published schedules through to December 31, 2015.