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'India is a vital part of our growth and expansion plans'

Henry Moses, Country Manager, India speaks with T3 about Qatar Airways' expansion plans

How has the load factor and yield been during the first half of the year 2013 on your India routes?

For travellers from India, which is one of our most important markets, there is significant traffic in various categories, especially in the VFR traffic (visiting Friends and Relatives), followed by business and leisure travellers.

Owing to the strong cultural, social and trade relations between the two nations, Qatar Airways has developed a strong link with India. Our aggressive growth strategy has always put stress on the significance of the Indian market, we plan to seek more capacity in India, increase frequency on existing routes as well as recruit more people from India.

In a short span of time, Qatar Airways has grown to over 120 destinations worldwide. The airline is expanding strategically and India is a vital part of our growth and expansion plans. Since 2004, when Qatar Airways only operated to four cities in India, the airline has gradually increased capacity and destinations across the country, the number of destinations have increased to 12 cities with 95 flights per week which seamlessly connect various destinations in Europe, Middle East, North and South America via Doha. The Indian network covers daily flights to Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Goa, Hyderabad, Kozhikode, Trivandrum, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, with 11-flights-a-week to Cochin and double daily to the capital, Delhi.

What sort of growth do you expect for the year 2013?

Qatar Airways is growing aggressively and India is a strategic market for our growth and expansion. We are one of the fastest growing carriers in the world with phenomenal route expansion year on year.

India is a diverse region with a huge potential and our focus is to provide more choice, more comfort and service levels of highest standards to our passengers. As the Indian aviation sector prepares for its next phase, it will witness increasing demand from the upcoming metro cities, thus increasing demand from tier-II markets will be a key growth driver for the sector.

What is your global expansion plan for 2013? Do you have any India specific expansion plans?

Qatar Airways plans to serve over 170 destinations worldwide with a fleet of more than 170 aircraft by 2015. We have one of the industry’s youngest fleets with an average aircraft age under four years old. There are over 250 aircraft on order books worth more than US$ 50 billion.

Globally Qatar Airways is set to launch services to a diverse portfolio of new routes during 2013, including Sulaymaniyah, Iraq (August 20), Chengdu, China (September 3) and many more start-ups to be announced. Apart from Chicago, we also launched some more new routes this year such as the Salalah, Oman (May 22) and Basra, Iraq (June 3). Qatar Airways operates one of the most modern fleets in the sky.

With more than 250 aircraft on order including Boeing's 777 & 787, Airbus' A380 & A350, our carbon footprint per-seat will continue to decline.  Additionally, we will have the continued ability to increase our service to business centres and popular leisure destinations worldwide. Qatar Airways currently has 13 Airbus A380s on order with plans to operate them on popular routes, especially in slot-constrained airports. The customized interior will meet the high demand specifications of Qatar Airways. We recently announced an order for nine Boeing 777 passenger aircraft on the opening day of the Paris Air Show. The additional aircraft will help the airline open up new routes and add capacity to existing markets in its rapidly-growing network. The airline’s outstanding order for nine Boeing 777s will increase to 16 and boost its current fleet of 35 777s to 51 aircraft.

India is growing as a main economic hub and shows enormous potential, both as a competitive tourist passenger market and also a centre for passengers travelling on business. In keeping with our aggressive growth plans, we will continue to introduce newer routes in the coming months. 

What challenges are you facing in operating in India?

We have exhausted all the traffic routes allotted by the Government of India. We hope Indian Civil Aviation authorities will give additional access to Gulf carriers in India and if that happens we would like to operate more flights to cater to the demands of global traffic. India is a country with 1.3 billion people and has the highest number of affluent and educated middle class. It has economic prosperity and large numbers of people travel overseas. We would love to serve more Indians in their travel needs and we are willing to take any number of seats offered to Qatar Airways. We believe in embracing change and rising above challenges to deliver what we promise as an award winning airline. 

What trends have you witnessed in air travel globally?

At Qatar Airways we are seeing a tremendous increase in travel enthusiasts worldwide in both leisure or business travel. Passenger needs and preferences are constantly evolving. Today's travellers expect every travel experience to be better than the last one. They’re ready to explore new destinations and customized packages are enabling them to travel to destinations they only ever dreamed of visiting.

The industry is investing in business intelligence solutions and collaborating more to increase operational efficiency and improve customer service and loyalty.  

We’re already seeing the way passengers buy travel changing. The increase use of Web and mobile phone applications will soon be the top two sales channels. We have been operating Mobile OnAir for more than three years on some of our aircraft and it’s clear that our passengers want and are coming to expect in-flight connectivity. We have seen high levels of usage of the OnAir services on flights to and from Europe, as well as on regional flights. The pattern emerging is that business travellers typically use mobile data, for example for email and reading the news. Leisure passengers are more likely to send text messages or update Twitter and Facebook accounts. In total the carrier will offer in-flight connectivity on over 150 aircraft, with the service already implemented on its A320s and Boeing 787s. We at Qatar Airways will continue to invest heavily in developing new technological solutions, for which we have partnered with leading Indian IT Company Wipro, to provide an overall enhanced customer experience.

Travel is no longer just about connectivity but about providing a holistic travel experience. We are committed to redefine luxury in the skies and known for our practice of outstanding in-flight service, superior onboard products and operational excellence. Through ease and convenience of using their mobile devices, Qatar Airways’ customers can search for, and book flights, check their flight status and follow travel alerts through our mobile app. In addition, members of Privilege Club can fast track their booking by logging in with their membership number.  Technology is the future and the quest for new horizons will continue to remain alive among travellers across the globe.

How has the evolution of the Indian outbound traveller been?

At Qatar Airways, we understand that over the years business of travel has changed drastically as a result of the changing mindset of the Indian travellers.  Today, Indians are globetrotting the world like never before. The United Nations World Tourism Organization estimates that India will account for 50 million outbound tourists by the year 2020. Indian travellers want to take the path less travelled and look for exclusivity in every holiday. The evolved consumers look forward to niche destinations for diverse experiences. The growth drivers include factors such as rising disposable income coupled with proliferation of the internet, which has increased online traffic considerably. In addition, a number of other economic factors such as the advent of competitive air fare, enormous flight options, attractive package tours, and swift & shorter visa application process, all contribute to the increasing outbound traffic. Indians have begun to travel and explore new destinations and are now taking frequent holidays.

There is much speculation about LCCs being the future of aviation. Do you conform with this opinion? What are the trends you have witnessed in LCCs since they began operations?

Today, travellers are seeking more value for money, which includes value as a combination of cost, experience, service and convenience. While cost might be an element in their decision making process, it is not the single deciding factor. As an airline, which is recognised for its Five-Star premium service, we offer our passengers a great travelling experience at a reasonable cost. As a global brand, we believe in consistent and exceptional service to provide the utmost travel experience to all our passengers. This fact was reiterated when we were honoured with “Best Airline Staff Service in the Middle East” by the prestigious Skytrax Awards at the recent Paris Air Show.

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