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Friday, May 30, 2014

Qatar Moves Airports, Leads Region's Growth

Woodrow Bellamy III 

[Aviation Today May 30, 2014] Qatar Airways’ move to the new Hamad International Airport in Doha reflects the latest sign of the growth of the Middle Eastern region as a true global aviation hub. 

The first commercial flight of Qatar Airways touching down at Hamad International Airport, marking the commencing of full operations of the national airline at Doha's new airport. Photo, courtesy of Qatar Airways.

The state-run carrier began full operations at the new airport a week ahead of the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) annual general meeting held in the same city.  Hamad International Airport is slated to grow to 29 square kilometers, nearly a third of the size of the city of Doha, at a cost of $15 billion. 

Doha International Airport congestion necessitated the new airport, and other Middle East airports are experiencing similar problems as passenger and cargo air traffic increase on a monthly basis, at a faster rate than any other region over the last year, according to IATA.  

"The moment we have all been building toward for many years arrived today as QR1113 touched down," said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. “This is yet another milestone in the rich history of Qatar Airways, and one that will allow us to fully realize our ambitions."

The ambitions Al Baker refers to have been reflected by Qatar’s investment and expansion and other Middle Eastern carriers over the last year and will continue into the second half of 2014. Qatar Airways is the launch customer for the latest Airbus long-haul aircraft, the A350 XWB, and has a total of 300 aircraft on order totaling more than $50 billion. Hamad International will also serve as the hub airport when the airline enters its first A380 into service on routes to the U.K. in June. 

Further showing the emergence of the region, another Middle Eastern carrier, Etihad Airways, will serve as the launch customer for the Boeing 777X, which is the U.S.-based manufacturer's competitor to the A350 XWB. 

The growth of the region as an aviation hub is just beginning, as Boeing's latest global market forecast estimates Middle Eastern airlines will require 2,610 new aircraft worth $550 billion over the next 20 years along with a need for 40,000 new pilots and 53,100 new technicians. 

Currently aviation in the region supports 2 million jobs and $116 billion in economic activity, according to IATA.  

Al Baker will be one of several airline chief executives participating in the CEO forum at the IATA annual gathering. IATA CEO Tony Tyler believes the region serves as an example for other nations around the world regarding investment in aviation infrastructure fostering a healthy environment for economic growth. 

"These carriers, including Qatar Airways, have been at the core of a major shift in global aviation. In just over a decade, the share of global traffic accounted for by Middle East airlines increased from 4 percent to 9 percent," said Tyler.

"All those visiting the Gulf for the AGM will have a unique opportunity to see the potential for aviation to drive development when in a business-friendly environment and with the right infrastructure."

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