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Qatar Airways prepares for Middle East expansion

National carrier to add a couple of Iraq routes within a fortnight.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al-Baker
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al-Baker

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Qatar Airways is preparing for its 2012 Middle East route expansion this week with Iraq being added to the airline’s growing network.

The northern Iraqi city of Erbil and capital Baghdad will join the airline’s international portfolio of routes over a period of two weeks.

Starting May 23, scheduled flights will begin to Erbil, followed on June 7 by operations to Baghdad. Both routes will be operated four-times-a-week non-stop from Qatar Airways’ Doha hub.

The addition of Iraq marks yet another move by the Doha-based airline to venture into high demand, underserved markets.

With the launch of two routes in Iraq in the space of just two weeks, Qatar Airways will take its new start-ups in 2012 to six destinations, with a further seven routes planned by the end of the year.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said Iraq had long been under the microscope by the company’s planning team, essentially due to lack of international air services in a country that had limited capacity for many years due to political instability.

“Now we believe is the right time to enter Iraq due to demand and infrastructure changes in a country that warrants more business and greater air access. We constantly evaluate numerous route opportunities and taking into consideration a number of factors, we feel that now is the opportunity to venture into this market. With international corporate houses looking to do business in Iraq, frequent air access will ease travel to and from the country via our Doha hub,” he said.

“The two Iraq routes mark the first start-ups in the Middle East for over a year and we continue to look at further destinations within the region to widen our reach.”

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