|Qatar Airways confirms Skopje interest|
The Senior Vice President for Aero Political, Industry, Regulatory Affairs & Alliances at Qatar Airways, Ali Alrais, says his airline hopes to establish flights from its hub in Doha to Skopje Alexander the Great Airport next year. Speaking in the capital last week following talks with the Macedonian President, Mr Alrais said the new service would boost relations between the two countries, develop trade links and fuel business travel. "As a Qatar Airways official, I see potential investment opportunities in Macedonia, primarily as a country that can develop tourism. I hope that next year we will introduce direct flights to Skopje, which will represent an excellent opportunity to building bridges between our two countries", Mr Alrais said.
The Qatari national carrier first expressed interest to launch services to Skopje back in 2013. In March that year, a high ranking delegation from Qatar Airways visited the Macedonian capital where they said flights between Doha and Skopje would primarily attract transit passengers from Australia and the Far East. Currently, Flydubai links Macedonia with the Middle East as the airline is maintaining two weekly flights from/to Dubai this winter season. Furthermore, Turkish Airlines caters for a large number of Macedonian travellers transiting through Istanbul further eastwards. "Currently you need ten hours to reach Skopje from Doha. A direct flight will take only four hours", Mr Alrais said.
In 2010 Macedonia and Qatar signed a bilateral air transport agreement and committed to an open skies policy. As a result, Qatar Airways is able to operate an unlimited number of passenger and cargo flights to Skopje using any type of aircraft. Furthermore, the open skies policy grants the Qatari carrier third, fourth and fifth freedom passenger rights on intermediate routes and beyond. This would, for example, allow Qatar Airways to operate flights between Macedonia and another, third, country. Last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed that Qatar Airways is planning to launch flights to Sarajevo in 2016, with final preparations underway before the carrier officially announces the new service. The Qatari carrier currently operates daily flights to both Zagreb and Belgrade within the former Yugoslavia.