Qatar Airways boss shrugs off crisis as Dublin route launched
Qatar Airways has insisted it can carve out a business on its new Dublin-Doha route amid competition from Gulf rivals Etihad and Emirates and a destabilised political backdrop that could threaten Qatar's economy.
Jonathan Harding, the senior vice-president for Europe of Qatar Airways, said that the damaging week-long isolation of Qatar by neighbours including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has not hurt the airline.
"We are leaving the politics to the politicians and the diplomacy to the diplomats," he said.
"Yes, there has been some limited impact in terms of operations. We fly to over 150 destinations globally, and three or four of those have been impacted."
Qatar Airways yesterday launched a global seat sale offering between 25pc and 50pc off economy and business-class fares.
The carrier has been squeezed out of airspace belonging to countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain, forcing it to divert some of its South America-bound flights on flight paths that lengthen the routes.
"It's business as usual," said Mr Harding.
"We've got an airline to run. The reality is that this doesn't impact the vast majority of our network. It doesn't impact the vast majority of our passengers."
He said there had been no question of deferring the launch of the Dublin-Doha route because of the political turmoil in the Gulf.
The daily Qatar Airways Doha-Dublin route was inaugurated yesterday.
Mr Harding said it was too early to make a call on whether the service would eventually move to a double-daily operation. About 90pc of Qatar Airways passenger traffic through Doha is in transit, and the three Gulf carriers have targeted passengers from Dublin travelling onwards to destinations in countries such as Australia and China.
Mr Harding said bookings on the new Doha service are solid.
"Forward bookings are good. We're new to the market. We're launching a global sales campaign today which is very much on offer to our Irish customers. That's at the same time as some Dublin-specific launch fares.
"We've got some really good competitors who have been in Dublin a little bit longer than us, but we thought the timing was right," he added.
Qatar Airways, which holds a 20pc stake in Aer Lingus owner IAG, said on Sunday that its net profits rose 20pc to 1.97bn Qatari riyals (€479m) in the 12 months to the end of end of March. Revenue rose 10pc to 39.4bn Qatari riyals (€9.58bn).