Qatar Airways, one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, plans to boost operations to the former Yugoslavia in the coming period in spite of growing competition from its Middle Eastern rivals. In addition to launching flights to Skopje and Sarajevo in October and November respectively, the carrier has hinted at introducing double daily services to Zagreb in the near future, while possible new routes could include Dubrovnik, Ljubljana and Pristina. It has been confirmed that the airline has undertaken a feasibility study for a number of destinations in the region. "As a global airline, we are committed to connecting cities such as Sarajevo and Skopje to our worldwide network. We are delighted to soon be celebrating these new and exciting destinations, connecting business and leisure passengers from the region to Doha and onwards", the airline told EX-YU Aviation News.
Qatar Airways increased frequencies to Zagreb from seven to ten weekly flights last month, with additional services likely. "Qatar Airways constantly reviews market conditions in order to respond to passenger demand and the increase in flights to Zagreb to a ten weekly operation was a direct reflection of this. While we are unable to comment directly on future commercial plans, it is true that in a number of markets, where we have increased operations from a daily, to then ten weekly operation, we have then seen an increase to a double daily operation, such as Bucharest which will commence double daily flights to Doha this August", the carrier said.
The Qatari airline is believed to be considering flights to Dubrovnik next year, while other possibilities in the former Yugoslavia include both Ljubljana and Pristina. Earlier this month, the Qatari Minister of Economy and Trade, Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, visited Slovenia where he expressed hope for flights between Doha and Ljubljana to be established in the near future. The Slovenian Ministry for Infrastructure said a direct air service to Doha would open up new opportunities for tourism. On the other hand, late last year, Qatar and Kosovo signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of a Bilateral Air Service Agreement. The two sides hope the move will lead to the establishment of flights between Kosovo and Qatar, with the agreement foreseeing an unlimited number of passenger and cargo services between the two. The Kosovo Civil Aviation Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of Qatar have agreed to hold talks in Pristina soon to further boost ties between the two regulators.
This March, Qatar Airways launched nonstop flights to Belgrade, which were previously operated via Sofia. As a result, the airline has seen strong passenger growth on its flights to the Serbian capital despite tough competition from Etihad Airways, Air Serbia and Flydubai. However, the airline says its on board product gives it a competitive edge against its rivals. "The focus for Qatar Airways is to provide luxury in the skies, ensuring that a passenger’s holiday or leisure trip starts the moment they step onto one of our aircraft. Our interiors provide the maximum level of comfort that makes the passengers’ journey enjoyable. In this regard, through customer satisfaction and enjoyment of a journey, Qatar Airways becomes the airline of choice", the carrier said. It added, "While it has to be said that we are seeing an increasing number of people travelling to Doha from the former Yugoslavia, most of our passengers travel through Doha to one of our more than 150 global destinations. Of course, it is still early days to comment on passenger bookings for Skopje and Sarajevo flights". The airline is yet to put its services to the Macedonian capital on sale.