Qatar Airways to launch catering unit shortly
Doha |By Rasha Owais
Qatar Airways will launch its catering division within the coming three months and is embarking on a major investment plan that will be announced in the near future, according to Akbar Al Baker, airline CEO.
Launching its Doha-based Qatar Airways Holidays Centre on Friday, the carrier, said industry experts, wants to aggressively position itself among regional competitors - though it is seen by some as imitating them.
Al Baker, on the other hand, said the airline will go public 'once it makes profits' and expected it to achieve a 40 per cent growth in passenger movement at the end of its fiscal year 2002-03 on April 1.
It carried 1.850 million passengers in its last fiscal year. "We have grown by the word of mouth and not through heavy advertising in newspapers like other carriers," he said on the airline's growth.
"Qatar Airways will go public once it makes profit. In any establishment stage, an airline's investment will be higher than revenues and this continues for five years," he replied , when asked about the timing of that plan.
"Many other airlines break up their companies into divisions before going public but we want to do that through a complete structure."
But Al Baker refused to disclose their 2002-03 financial results though noted that the carrier is in its initial years which generally involve heavy investments and no profits.
He also refrained from commenting on whether Qatar plans to sell its stake in Gulf Air by saying: "I can only be asked questions on Qatar Airways. and I can not make any comments on this."
He was also against views that the undeveloped infrastructure in Qatar will hinder the company's future growth plans and that Qatar should have first focused on infrastructure.
"I agree that Qatar does not have a huge infrastructure vis-a-vis traffic/transit places or the hustle bustle of Dubai but the Hilton, Four Seasons, Holiday Inn and many three and four-star hotels are in the pipeline.
"Qatar Airways, a member of the Qatar Tourism Authority, is embarking on a major tourism investment plan that will be announced soon, the development of the arrival gateway in the coming three months and a $600 million project involving a brand new airport towards the east of the present one."
"Qatar Airways is not only looking at exporting traffic but increasing tourism demand and inbound traffic. It generated huge interest from travel agents and westerners."
On whether Qatar Airways fears changes in the regional political scene could impact its business, Al Baker said: "We are not a political corporation and do not look at this issue."
Al Baker believed the regional industry - including carriers serving the Far East and the East like Qatar Airways - is getting over the September 11 syndrome.
Qatar Airways saw a 12 per cent growth in trafficmovement from September 2000 to September 2001.
"We only lost five per cent of our bookings in Europe. Public fear of travel has no impact on Qatar, which is secure and crime rate is low."
Though the youngest in the region, Al Baker said the company has code share agreements with international airlines and has plenty of time to decide on alliances.
Meanwhile, Qatar Airways Holidays Centre facilities include two VIP suites, a large general sales area, reservations system, travel accessories store and an Internet cafe.
Qatar Airways Holidays Centre began operations in March 2001 with short break packages to Dubai.
Qatar Airways also introduced its first brochure with information for over 50 destinations spread over 32 countries.
The brochures provide information on over 300 hotels around the world and features extensive destination profiles.
Qatar Airways is also launching the Casablanca route on May 31 and Milan and Frankfurt in June. It already launched Riyadh on April 1
Its six A330-200s are being assembled in Toulouse and will be delivered on May 10, July and March 2003 repsectively. The final firm delivery is for February 2004.
The $750 million deal with Airbus includes firm orders for six A330-200 with option for two aircraft of the same model.
(source editied to include more recent information)
Just a note though, Qatar Airways subsidiaries are profitable but the airline itself is only expected to make a profit this or the next financial year. The airlines load factors in the 2001-2002 financial year are in the 70-75% range but these past few months the Load factor is in the 80% range and it will likely increase to around 85% range in the 2002-2003 financial year. My source is not official but from a person who is very reliable in this matter.