The out-spoken boss of Qatar Airways is known to make announcements off the cuff and that was exactly the case at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general assembly in Dublin, Republic of Ireland, last week when it revealed plans for the carrier to become the first Gulf carrier to serve the Las Vegas market.
Speaking to reporters in the Irish capital city, Akbar Al Baker, chief executive officer, Qatar Airways Group said: “We are going to go from January direct from Doha to Las Vegas.” According to the executive, the flight will be operated on a daily basis between Hamad International Airport and McCarran International Airport using a Boeing 777-300ER.
A Qatar Airways official has now confirmed the plans of the carrier, although remained tight-lipped over the proposed schedule and launch date. If it does come to fruition it will make Qatar Airways the largest of the Gulf carriers in the US market in terms of destinations served (eleven versus ten at Emirates Airline) and follows the launch this week of flights to Atlanta.
The arrival of Qatar Airways would be a major development for Las Vegas, and the suggested January 2017 launch could have the route established ahead of next year’s Routes Americas forum which takes place the The Aria Resort and Casino Convention Facility in Sin City between February 14 and 16, 2017.
This will mark the second time that Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and McCarran International Airport will bring a Routes event to the city. After hosting World Routes in 2013, the airport gained over 120 weekly flights with an estimated annual economic impact of $450 million in non-gaming revenue.
Nearly half of Las Vegas’ 42 million visitors a year travel by air and with aviation driving tourism development, the lifeblood of the local economy, the value of enhanced air connectivity is clear to see for Las Vegas, a destination that firmly understands the value of air service development due to the tourism and convention industries being so high on the city’s agenda.
Qatar Airways completed the latest phase of its United States route development with the introduction of three new passenger routes to Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta during 2016 meaning it now offers daily non-stop services to ten of the largest metropolitan areas of the US: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
The airline will this year offer more than one million seats into the US market for the first time, up 51.7 percent on 2015, based on published schedules. Although it may be the largest of the Gulf carriers by destinations served, its offering into the US is still considerably smaller than rival Emirates Airline which offers more than two million seats into the US from Dubai, growing 18.3 percent this year to 2.44 million. It actually also has a smaller presence than both Etihad Airways and Turkish Airlines which have grown capacity 43.9 percent and 38.3 percent respectively in 2016.
It is estimated that Qatar Airways will be targeting the sizeable O&D flows between destinations across Asia, Africa and the Middle East to and from Las Vegas each year. Around 340,000 annual passengers flew between the Far East and Las Vegas last year, according to Sabre Market Intelligence data with a market of around 125,000 from Australia. There are sizeable flows of over 80,000 annual passengers to/from both southeast and central Asia, around 55,000 to/from the Middle East, 35,000 to/from Africa and approximately 19,000 to/from the Gulf.
Although yields are historically not strong in and out of Las Vegas, Qatar Airways will aim to take advantage of the considerable MICE traffic in and out of the US city to sustainably support the strong leisure flows.