Qatar Airways today announced route expansion on three continents together with a huge increase in capacity in Pakistan as part of the Doha-based carrier's continued aggressive growth strategy.
The Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa will become the carrier's 20th destination on the African continent, launching on September 18, followed a month later by Clark International Airport in the Philippines from October 28.
Effective March 1 next year, Philadelphia will become the airline's fifth US gateway. In addition, Qatar Airways is significantly increasing capacity to Pakistan where it currently operates 17 flights each week across four cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar.
Beginning next month from June 1, Qatar Airways will step up frequency to Pakistan by 60 per cent to 28 flights each week - Karachi up from daily to double daily; Lahore from four to seven flights a week; and Peshawar securing an additional flight to three services each week.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker announced the expansion during a press conference on the opening day of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) - the Middle East's premier travel show - taking place in Dubai this week.
"Yet again Qatar Airways is bucking the trend across the industry demonstrating that we are resilient in times of global economic austerity because while others are cutting back, we see the opportunities to expand our global footprint," he said.
"Our three new routes we are announcing today show we have faith in expanding our operations across different continents. This year for example has certainly been the year of growth in the Middle East with five of our eight scheduled route launches in the region alone.
"We stepped up capacity to the United States, introducing Chicago as our fourth US gateway last month and will now add Philadelphia next year.
"Philadelphia is one of the major hubs of the soon-to-be-merged American Airlines / US Airways and will provide Qatar Airways' customers with onward connections to over 100 cities.
"With the implementation of code share agreements with American Airlines and JetBlue which offer numerous connections beyond our US gateways, Qatar Airways is making big strides to strengthen its presence in the United States to ultimately give our passengers greater travel options."
"Joining the oneworld global alliance later this year will also present tremendous travel options and benefits to our passengers and to those of partner carriers in the alliance."
Added Al Baker: "We have been looking to fly to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for some time, and extremely delighted we will be able to do so later year as new aircraft join the fleet. And Clark International Airport in the Philippines provides us with great opportunities to boost our presence in the Greater Manila area and northern region of Luzon Island. This comes as good news for the well travelled Filipino community with ever increasing demand for flights to and from the country."
Qatar Airways currently operates twice-daily scheduled flights to the capital Manila.
Al Baker went on to explain the importance of growth in Pakistan, saying: "We have had a well established operation in Pakistan for many years, but have always been looking to increase frequency and now thanks to new agreements in place between the relevant authorities, we can soon enjoy more capacity between Qatar and Pakistan.
"Our customers can expect more choice from next month when we increase frequency to three key cities in Pakistan."
Al Baker also gave Middle East and international media an update on the reintroduction of the carrier's five Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the first of which began flying again last week on the Doha - Dubai route, with gradual phasing in over the next few weeks of the other aircraft on long-haul routes such as London Heathrow, Munich, Frankfurt and Zurich.
The airline's Dreamliner Business and Economy Class seats are a key feature on its exhibition stand at ATM this week providing travel professionals from around the world with an opportunity to sample the seats and amenities.
Al Baker spoke of the airline's rapidly developing presence on social media as one of the fastest growing airlines on Facebook. The carrier's fan base has tripled over the past six months and is set to reach a milestone one million users by the end of May. He said the dynamic activity on social media had significantly enhanced brand loyalty and global exposure as the airline also engaged in a number of activities involving users.
The airline boss also provided an a latest developments at Hamad International Airport - Qatar's brand new airport - scheduled to open this year.
Qatar Airways has launched four destinations this year - Gassim (Saudi Arabia), Najaf (Iraq), Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and Chicago (USA). Aside from the newly-announced routes today, over the next few weeks and months, the network will grow further with Salalah (Oman on May 22), Basra and Sulaymaniyah (Iraq on June 3 and August 20 respectively) and Chengdu (China on September 3).
Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in just 16 years of operations, currently flying a modern fleet of 123 aircraft to 126 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and The Americas.