Qatar Airways, one of the world's fastest growing airlines, has sought more traffic routes and seats from India to serve two-tier cities, a top airline official has said.
Akbar-Al-Baker, Chief Executive Officer told the PTI on Wednesday that Qatar Airways has exhausted all the traffic routes allotted by the Government of India.
He was in New York on the sidelines of ‘Educate a child’, a global education program sponsored by the airline and Jazz@ Lincoln Center, New York.
"We hope Indian Civil Aviation authorities will give additional access to other Gulf carriers in India and if that happens we would like to operate more flights.
We would like to operate more flights out of India to cater to the demands of global traffic," Al-Baker said.
He said India is a country with 1.3 billion people and has the highest number of affluent and educated middle class.
It has economic prosperity and large number of people travels overseas.
"We would love to serve more Indians in their travel needs. I am willing to take any number of seats offered to Qatar Airways. Sky is the limit," he said.
India's annual airline passengers, both domestic and international, number only 160 million.
The Center for Aviation predicts that number will nearly triple to 450 million by 2020.
Answering questions on Ethihad Airways picking up 24 percent stake of Jet Airways for $379 million, the first foreign investment in an Indian airline since India eased restrictions on aviation deals, Al-Baker said.
Qatar Airways has no such plans to enter into any arrangement the moment in India and is watching the market.
"We are only requesting the government of India to give us additional flying rights taking into consideration the growing air traffic and have no other plans in that country."
Al Baker, who has been Qatar Airways CEO for 15 years and led the airline to become one of the fastest growing in the world to fly 125 international destinations with a fleet of 120 aircraft, had his education in India.
"I have India connections. I studied in India and am very happy and proud to get that opportunity.
"You can see the results of what Indian education is bringing to Qatar Airways," he said.
The Middle Eastern airlines, in a bid to strengthen their foothold in the Indian markets are seeking nearly 1, 50,000 additional seats per week from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, according to Center for Asia Pacific Aviation, a global aviation consulting firm.
CAPA estimates that the market will open up further and there will be more penetration to the Tier-II cities in India. According to reports, Middle Eastern carriers -- Emirates, Ethihad, Qatar Airways and UAE carrier Air Arabia are asking Ministry of Civil Aviation for additional seats and also revisit their demand to fly the largest passenger airplane in the world, the A380 to India.
A recent study shows that together Emirates, Qatar and Air Arabia flew nearly 22 percent of the international passengers from India.
With the launch of thrice-weekly passenger services between Chicago and Qatar Airways' hub in Doha, capital of the State of Qatar, Chicago becomes destination number 126 in the airline's impressive worldwide network.
Qatar Airways now operates 24 passenger flights a week between the United States and Doha – daily from New York, Washington DC and Houston and the new thrice-weekly services from Chicago.
Effective June 15, the Chicago -- Doha route will increase to a daily service.
Qatar Airways also operates twice-weekly dedicated cargo flights between the two cities, launched in August 2010.
"After more than five successful years of operations in North America, we are pleased to introduce Chicago as our fourth and newest US gateway and look forward to welcoming travelers from the Midwest and its catchment areas to fly with us to many parts of the world and, similarly welcome visitors from around the world to this great city," he said.
Philadelphia will become its fifth US gateway when it inaugurates daily flights from the new Hamad International Airport in Doha from April 2, 2014.
Further growth in North America has been under discussion for the past couple of years but previously Atlanta, Boston and Detroit had been mooted as possible destinations.
However, with Qatar Airways' impending entry to the One World alliance later this year this decision highlights how the carrier's strategy is being developed to work with its global partners.
Qatar Airways will be the first foreign flag carrier to launch flights at Philadelphia International Airport in more than a decade and will be the sixth destination served by the carrier in North America after Chicago, Houston, New York and Washington in the US and Montreal in Canada.
"Philadelphia is one of the major hubs of the soon-to-be-merged American Airlines/US Airways and will provide Qatar Airways' customers with onward connections to over 100 cities," he said.
"We stepped up capacity to the US introducing Chicago as our fourth US gateway last month and will now add Philadelphia next year.
With the implementation of code share agreements with American Airlines and Jet Blue which offer numerous connections beyond our US gateways, Qatar Airways is making big strides to strengthen its presence in the United States to ultimately give our passengers greater travel options," he added.
Qatar Airways currently has orders worth over $50 billion for more than 250 aircraft, including Boeing 787s, 777s, Airbus A350s, A380s and A320 family of aircraft and is rapidly expanding the markets.
Image: A Qatar Airways aircraft | Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters