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A Qatar Airways Airbus A340-600 sits on the tarmac at Doha airport (KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images)
A Qatar Airways Airbus A340-600 sits on the tarmac at Doha airport (KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Qatar Airways to begin Montreal service Add to ...

Qatar Airways' aggressive global expansion will see it enter the Canadian market this summer with direct flights between Doha and Montreal.

Chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker told reporters in Brussels that service will begin "soon."

Reports said the airline plans to offer three weekly round-trip flights on Boeing 777 aircraft starting in June.

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Qatar, which launched flights to Belgium on Monday, plans to reach 120 major destinations by 2013. It currently operates nearly 1,000 flights weekly to 98 destinations, with Houston, Washington and New York being its only North American stops.

The Montreal route flows out of an agreement signed last October between Canada and Qatar that permits three passenger and three cargo flights per week into Canada.

The flights come as the United Arab Emirates wages a public battle with Canada over its effort to increase the number of flights for Emirates airline.

Ottawa's refusal to give more slots prompted the UAE to kick the Canadian military out of Camp Mirage, a key base in Dubai used to support the war in Afghanistan.

Unlike the UAE, Qatar does not require that Canadian citizens have travel visas.

The operator of Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport confirmed it was in discussion with Qatar Airways.

"We are speaking with Qatar about some projects about them coming here," Aéroports de Montréal spokeswoman Stephanie Lepage said.

"Unfortunately, I can't say when they will operate or if they will this summer."

The decision to select Montreal over Toronto would be good news for the airport, she added.

Thirty-six airlines fly passenger service out of Montreal, including 12 Canadian, six U.S. and 18 international carriers. Royal Jordanian is the only one right now based in the Middle East.

Qatar Airways has focused much of its expansion in Europe, which represents one quarter of its global network. Brussels is its 24th European destination.

Since last March, six new routes have been added in Europe, with Stuttgart planned for next month.

Qatar Airways has increased the capacity and frequency of service by adding new routes to underserved cities and stepped in as other airlines have withdrawn capacity, Mr. Al Baker said.

He said the airline's rapid expansion has created "unease" among competitors, but insisted that it is meeting demand by offering customers greater choice and an alternative to legacy carriers.

"There should be an operating environment where competitors ought not be afraid of each other and not feel threatened."

Qatar Airways isn't yet taking bookings on direct flights from Canada, although connections to flights from the U.S. are provided through other carriers.

Meanwhile, Mr. Al Baker was non-committal about a potential order for Bombardier Inc.'s C Series jet.

"I do not want to comment on this. This is a sensitive issue," he told reporters.

Qatar did not place an expected order at last summer's Farnborough Airshow due to maintenance cost issues for the Pratt & Whitney engines.

It is one of the world's biggest aircraft customers, with orders for 80 Airbus A350s, 60 Boeing 787s and 32 Boeing 777s. It is also buying at least five twin-deck Airbus A380.

Mr. Al Baker said he's still "happy" with the airline's relationship with Boeing Co. despite a seventh delay of its Dreamliner program.

"We have [adjusted]our delivery schedule and the timeline has slipped slightly, but it does not bother me too much. I'm happy with our relationship with Boeing," he told online publication ATW.



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