Qatar Airways will boost its operations from Doha to the former Yugoslavia this winter for a third year in a row. The airline will begin the expansion by maintaining its ten weekly service to Zagreb throughout the winter season, up from last year's seven, and boosting capacity on seven of its weekly services. The carrier plans to use its 182-seat Airbus A321 aircraft on the route instead of the A320. The A321 features twelve seats in business class and the remaining 170 in economy. The upgrade bodes well for the airline's operations next summer, which could see it operate double daily flights between the two capital cities. "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 operations, such as Bucharest which commenced double daily flights to Doha this August", a Qatar spokesperson told EX-YU Aviation News.
This March, Qatar Airways launched nonstop flights to Belgrade, which were previously operated via Sofia. During the winter, the airline will maintain four weekly flights on the route, as was the case this summer, and will continue to run the service without a stop. According to the "Aviatica" portal, the airline has recorded strong passenger growth after it upgraded the route to a non-stop operation, with numbers improving up to 90%. This is despite the airline facing strong competition on the market from Etihad Airways, Air Serbia and Flydubai. However, the carrier says its on board product gives it a competitive edge over its rivals. Commenting on the passenger structure on these flights, the airline told EX-YU Aviation News, "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".
Despite delaying the launch of its flights to Skopje and Sarajevo, which were initially scheduled to launch in October and November respectively, Qatar Airways is committed to introducing these services and has denied claims that the two have been dropped altogether. Flights to Skopje are now expected to commence during the first quarter of 2017, while services to Sarajevo will launch "as soon as possible", although no exact timeframe has been given. In the lead up to the service launch, Qatar Airways is hiring a number of staff members in the Bosnian capital including airport service agents, supervisors and managers. Furthermore, this September, the airline will hold cabin crew recruitment events in both Skopje and Sarajevo. The Qatari carrier is believed to be considering flights to Dubrovnik next year, while other possibilities in the former Yugoslavia include both Ljubljana and Pristina, however, future expansion is being hampered by the late delivery of its aircraft from both Airbus and Boeing.