Qatar to launch low-cost airline?

15 Jul 2008 by Mark Caswell

Qatar Airways has registered a name for a proposed no-frills airline venture, but claims it will only launch it if provoked.

Speaking at the Farnborough International Airshow, the airline’s chief executive Akbar Al Baker declined to reveal what the carrier would be called, but said it could take to the skies “within 90 days” if necessary.

His warning came the day after Flydubai, the Emirates-owned budget offshoot which begins services next year, announced an order for 54 aircraft and stated its ambitions in the Gulf region.

Al Baker claimed he had no intention of launching a no-frills carrier, but said he would do so “when I feel the pain of low-cost in my market”.

He explained: “If our market share was being eroded by low-cost carriers, then we would launch one within 90 days. We have aircraft that can be reconfigured in 90 days.

We would put these into markets more aggressively and with lower costs.”

Qatar Airways has 11 Airbus A320s that could be converted for no-frills use. It ordered six of the bigger A321s at Farnborough, although Al Baker said these were not intended for use in any budget offshoot.

He stressed that Qatar Airways’ focus was on being a full-service carrier. It will take delivery of its first aircraft equipped with fully-flat beds in business class next month.

A spokesman added that the first of the two-class Boeing 777s fitted with the new seats might be used on some Heathrow-Doha frequencies.

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Report by Gary Noakes

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