Thousands of people gathered on Doha’s Corniche on Saturday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the national airline, Qatar Airways and watch a spectacular aerial display by the world-famous Red Arrows. And as the Hawk jets swooped across the city skyline, a state of art Qatar Airways A350 aircraft took centre stage to lead the display in a distinctive diamond nine formation.
The tiny but oil-rich state of Qatar has actually had its own airline for much longer than 20 years but for a long time, it was just a small regional player with little influence. In 1997 however, the carrier was relaunched as the airline we know today.
Much of the airline’s success has been credited to its outspoken and colourful chief executive, Akbar Al Baker. The 55-year old Qatari turned what was an airline with just four aircraft into one which now boasts a 200 strong fleet. So rapid has been the airline’s development that it’s become one the fastest growing airline’s in the history of aviation.
Qatar Airways now flies to over 150 destinations worldwide and has opened a slew of new routes in the past 6-months. Even with a major political spat in the region affecting business, the airline is still expanding – only last week, Baker announced an order for 6 more Boeing aircraft valued at $2.16 billion USD. That’s on top of the over 100 aircraft already on order with both Boeing and Airbus.
At this years Skytrax World Airline Awards, the airline was named as the World’s Best Airline – an accolade that it can add to an ever-growing trophy cabinet of similar awards.
“I am very proud of all that Qatar Airways has achieved in the past 20 years,” commented Baker, going on to say: “and as we embark on the next 20 years I look forward to continuing to demonstrate the passion, innovation and award-winning customer service that we have become renowned for.”
“In just two decades, Qatar Airways has exceeded all expectations, to rise from humble beginnings to become one of the world’s leading and most admired airlines.”
To mark the moment, a Qatar Airways Airbus A350 took part in a thrilling display with the UK’s Red Arrows – an ariel display team which is part of the British Royal Air Force. The decision by Qatar Airways to use one its A350’s for this special moment finally brings to an end any bad blood that had built between the airline and French aircraft manufacturer, Airbus.
Qatar Airways was the global launch airline of the A350 and was heavily involved in the design project for the state of the art aircraft. But the relationship between the two sides started to sour because of delays in delivering the aircraft. Qatar blamed poor workmanship on its high-spec cabin finishes that were simply unacceptable.
The situation got so bad that Qatar Airways announced the cancellation of four A350 orders in July – the aircraft had already been finished and painted in Qatar’s colours when the airline made the decision. They’ve been stranded at the Airbus manufacturing plant in Toulouse ever since but last week Baker signalled a major thawing in relations.
Qatar Airways will finally take delivery of the four A350’s after Baker travelled to Toulouse to personally inspect the aircraft and hammer out a deal with Airbus officials. The aircraft are worth $1.2 billion USD so it’s a major development for both sides and a sign of how seriours matters had previously got.