Brocker.Org: AIRSHOW-Qatar Airways sticks to fleet, route growth despite rift – Reuters

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(Adds more quotes on ICAO, Italy, India)

By Victoria Bryan

PARIS, June 19 A boycott by four Arab nations
will not halt Qatar Airways’ growth or plans to accept delivery
of new aircraft, it said on Monday, adding it was seeing demand
return after an initial downturn.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt
cut ties with Qatar on June 5 in the worst diplomatic crisis in
the region in years.

The crisis has seen those countries close their airspace to
Qatar Airways, forcing it to fly longer routes and thereby
adding costs.

“There has been monetary impact,” Chief Executive Akbar al
Baker said in an interview onboard one of Qatar Airways’ 777
jets at the Paris Airshow on Monday.

“We have had a lot of cancellations, especially to the four
countries that did this illegal blockade, but we have found new
markets and this is our growth strategy,” he said, adding
passengers were returning to the carrier after initially being
deterred when the boycott started.

He said Qatar was not the only country affected by the
crisis.

“All these countries have families on either side of the
borders, they have relatives, children, investments. Eventually
people will realise that the move they have done against my
country was ill-thought out and ill-advised and that life has to
come back to normal,” he said.

Qatar is talking with the United Nations’ aviation agency,
ICAO, about the airspace rights’ dispute, and Al Baker said he
was disappointed with their actions thus far.

“I don’t think they have moved enough, I don’t think they
have taken this matter very seriously,” he said.

He said Qatar Airways had plenty of growth opportunities
elsewhere, citing new routes opening this month to Dublin,
Skopje and Sarajevo as examples.

“We are not going to defer any of our aircraft … We are
continuing our aircraft deliveries at the same pace as we are
contractually obligated to do,” he said, adding Qatar was in
talks to add more freighter capacity.

Al Baker said Qatar Airways still wanted to buy a stake in
Italian carrier Meridiana, though there were “a few things to
iron out.”

However, Qatar is not interested in struggling carrier
Alitalia, which is in the process of seeking a buyer.

“We are not interested to look at the books because I know
how it has been left behind by one of the airlines that was too
keen to relaunch it and failed,” he said.

Separately, Qatar plans to set up a full service Indian
carrier to fly domestic routes with around 100 narrowbody planes
after the country opened up the airline industry to foreign
investors.

Al Baker said an application would be made for an operating
licence soon, without giving a more precise timeframe.
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Louise Heavens and
Mark Potter)

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