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Scramble For Airline Seats

Gulf summer air travel takes off

Gulf summer air travel takes off
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker / Photo by E. Lang

By Elisabeth Lang | Jul 25, 2010

While Doha recorded its highest temperature in 40 years last week, according to an official from the Qatar Meteorological Office, with temperatures climbing up to 51°C (123.8 °F) and Tuesday’s 50°C (122 °F) - the hottest experienced in Doha in some four decades - the official explained that pets should stay in the house and night shifts provided for workers.

With a hot summer and early Ramadan, there will be a heavy rush this year for thousands of residents fly out for summer holidays. According to the airlines, they are facing a scramble for seats, and there is no chance to grab a low-fare seat from Doha between July and mid-September. Although air ticket prices have gone up by 25 percent, more people are traveling this summer.

The rush for seats has also been seen on routes to Damascus, Ammam, Egypt, Lebanon, Philippines, and India, according to the Gulf Times. Seats in economy class are totally booked as large numbers of residents take off on annual holiday. Many people will also return in August to the Gulf. Inbound traffic from these places peaks during the first week of August, prior to Ramadan, and destinations such as London, Paris, Vienna, Frankfurt, and Geneva in Europe, and Malasyia, Thailand, and Singapore in Southeast Asia are highly favored by Qatar-based tourists.

These are busy times for Qatar Airways, which announced a massive increase of
its weekly flights to Germany from 21 to 35, based on the agreement signed by QCAA Abdul Aziz - al Noami and Luftfahrt Bundesamt. Further growth opportunities are occuring in the Far East, following the successful launch of flights to Tokyo, it newst destination, according to the airline’s chief executive officer, Akbar Al Baker.

Qatar Airways' new direct daily services between Tokyo’s Narita International Airport and Qatari Capital DOHA, launched in April, has become one of the company's top-performing routes within its first month of operation, and there is good reason: there are large numbers of Japanese engineers working in Ras Laffan Industrial City on a gigantic project - one of world’s largest ethane cracker plants, with a 120 km pipline from Ras Laffan to Mesaieed to transport the ethylene product.

Last month, the airline announced new routes from Doha to Phuket in Thailand and Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, were to begin in October and November 2010. "Qatar Airways, with $35 billion worth of planes, will stick to its expansion plans; even at a time of gloom [and a] global recession crisis, we are adding 15 destination," Al Baker said in a Bloomberg interview in Dubai. Qatar Airways will also open a new base to European cities, including Budapest, Nice on the french Riviera (France), and Asia, including Hanoi, Vietnam, Phuket, and Thailand within the next 12 months.

With Tokyo, Qatar Airways' Far East and South East Asian routes network currently stands at 15 destinations, representing almost 20 percent of the carrier’s global coverage.

An IATA report said Middle East carriers experience a demand of 15 percent this year, indicating recovery for the Gulf region travel industry.

Copyright E. Lang

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