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 East rivals. In addition to introducing flights to Skopje on July 17, the airline is also expected to announce the date of its Sarajevo launch shortly. The carrier intended to commence services from Doha to the Bosnian capital in October of last year but pushed back the service launch due to an ongoing fleet shortage. A new date is yet to be set, however, an airline spokesperson told EX-YU Aviation News that the route has priority and will be launched "as soon as possible". The carrier has reiterated it is not backing away from the new service and the delay is purely a result of operational circumstances. On Monday, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Qatar signed a new Air Service Agreement, which the Gulf state says will further improve air traffic between the two countries. "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.
The Qatari carrier will face stiff competition on its Zagreb service this summer when Emirates launches daily flights with its Boeing 777 aircraft in a few weeks time. Qatar currently maintains ten weekly flights between Doha and the Croatian capital with a mix of Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft but has hinted at the possibility of going double daily on the route. "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". Apart from Zagreb, the airline also considered introducing services to Dubrovnik but has instead opted for the Greek island of Mykonos, which will commence next year.
Qatar Airways will add a further three weekly flights, for a total of seven, to the Serbian capital starting October 1. It will deploy its Airbus A320P jet on the route, which features 132 seats, with an improved premium product boasting twelve seats with 180 degree lie-flat capability in business class. The move is in response to growing competition on the market from Etihad Airways and Flydubai, both of which see strong demand on their respective routes, capturing significant volumes of transfer passengers. 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".