EDINBURGH’S long-awaited one-stop air route to Asia and Australia will increase to two flights a day if Qatar Airways’ flights to Doha prove as popular as expected, the airline’s chief executive Akbar Al Baker told The Scotsman today.
Mr Al-Baker also said he had wanted to launch the route four years ago, but it had been delayed by production problems with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft and the lack of other suitable planes.
The chief executive said plans exist to increase the five-days-a-week service, which launches on 28 May, to daily flights by the end of the year if more aircraft are available.
Edinburgh Airport - Scotland’s busiest - has been keenly seeking a route to the Gulf states for several years, mindful of the major growth of Emirates’ Glasgow-Dubai flights. The Glasgow route has been served by progressively larger aircraft, and then by a second daily flight, since launching ten years ago.
One stop to Asia, Australia
Emirates’ success is attributed to enabling Scottish passengers to reach long-haul destinations on the other side of the world with just one change of plane, rather than having to switch flights at both a European hub such as Heathrow or Amsterdam and at a second in Asia.
The Doha route, which was announced last November, could become Edinburgh’s most important international link, with 80 per cent of passengers from Scotland expected to fly on to one of Qatar’s other 133 non-UK destinations.
Mr Al-Baker said Qatar would expand from Edinburgh with a second daily flight before increasing the size of aircraft on the route.
The airline will be counting on the drawing power of the Dreamliner, whose advanced cabin pressure and lighting system is claimed to reduce the effects of jet lag.
Speaking in Edinburgh, Mr Al-Baker said: “There is strong demand for a five-star carrier to come here from the east. Edinburgh is under-served from our region”.
He said journeys between Edinburgh and Australia would be cut by up to eight hours from 28 to 20 hours, compared to flying with other airlines via other airports.
The chief executive said Qatar had chosen Edinburgh rather than Glasgow because Scotland’s largest city was already served by Emirates, and due to the attractiveness of the capital to tourists from countries such as China and Japan.
He said: “More people want to come here than other cities in Scotland. We were approached by Glasgow, but we always prefer to go to new destinations which are not served. We do not like to follow people - we like to lead.”
Mr Al-Baker said he expected Qatar to eventually carry as many passengers as Emirates from Glasgow. He said: “If the business grows well, we could put on a second flight.”