Qatar’s Nordic niche

7 Oct 2011 by BusinessTraveller
According to a report on Bloomberg, Qatar Airways is poised to inaugurate services to Finland. The report quotes Qatar’s CEO Akbar al Baker as saying his airline aims to announce a route to Helsinki “imminently.” Mr Baker was speaking yesterday at the launch of Qatar’s new route into Oslo (see online news October 5) which follows existing services into Copenhagen (launched in 2010) and Stockholm (started in 2007). It means that travellers in Scandinavia and the Nordic countries are gaining easier and, possibly less expensive, access to destinations in the Middle East, Asia and Australia. By contrast, its Gulf-based rivals have so far neglected this area of the world. Emirates and Bahrain-based Gulf Air serve only Copenhagen while Abu Dhabi-based Etihad is not represented at all. Assuming that Helsinki goes ahead, it is not clear whether the route will be flown non-stop from Doha (perhaps with a narrow-bodied long-range A319) or whether Qatar will seek to combine the Finnish capital with either Oslo or Stockholm for operating efficiency. In some ways, the choice of Helsinki is a surprise. That is because Finland is a small market and a good proportion of the passengers carried by home airline Finnair to Asia are in transit. In other words, they may have started their journeys to, say, Hong Kong or Singapore in the likes of Manchester or London or Gothenburg or Hamburg. In addition, Finland lies astride the “great circle” air route linking Europe to Asia via Russia so Finnair can offer passengers much shorter journey times. But Finns do travel to the Gulf: witness Finnair’s launch today of a three times a week seasonal route between Helsinki and Dubai. So it would seem Qatar Airways will compete by offering a wider range of destinations via Doha and by pricing keenly. For more information visit Report by Alex McWhirter
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