This week I am attending the enormous travel trade fair ITB in Berlin. Qatar Airways held a press conference yesterday morning which had a few interesting announcements though nothing as earth shattering as the QSuites unfortunately.
In 2017 despite losing 19 routes due to the blockade, they introduced 11 new destinations. At ITB they announced yet more new routes, a number of which will be incredibly useful holiday routes, cutting down the number of connections needed. The new routes for 2018 are:
- London Gatwick from 22 May (twice daily and triple daily 15 June -29 September)
- Cardiff, United Kingdom;
- Lisbon, Portugal;
- Tallinn, Estonia;
- Valletta, Malta;
- Cebu and Davao, Philippines;
- Langkawi, Malaysia;
- Da Nang, Vietnam;
- Bodrum, from 12 June, Antalya and Hatay, Turkey;
- Mykonos and Thessaloniki, Greece;
- Málaga, Spain from 4 June
Roving Reporter will be very pleased since it means he can fly direct to his favourite hotel, The Datai, Langkawi on his favourite airline, Qatar.
Hopefully the increased UK capacity with both Cardiff and Gatwick will mean a fall in prices as we saw in the recent sale from the UK. Qatar used to fly to Gatwick until 2011. The closer relationship between BA and Qatar had a bearing on returning to Gatwick to be able to offer more connections to and from BA. Qatar’s Gatwick flights will be on a B787 with 1-2-1 seating – you can read my B787 review here.
In addition, services to Warsaw, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Prague and Kyiv will increase to a double daily frequency, while services to Madrid, Barcelona and the Maldives will increase to triple daily.
The QSuites will be on German routes this year which is excellent news as there are often some good deals from Germany, particularly Berlin (although the airport is not great).
Qatar already have 214 aircraft in total but there are plenty more to come. Their 10th and possibly last A380 will be received in April 2018 although they still have options for more. Qatar also have an impressive 50 A321neos on order. They revealed that there will be a new “first of its kind” business class seat for it which they will reveal at ITB in February 2019. This is of interest as often some of the best ex EU sale bargains can be found from Eastern Europe which often use short haul aircraft with inferior seats. The tier points would still be an issue on some routes though. (Some only get short haul tier points compared to the 140 in business class on most European routes to Doha).
So far I haven’t been that interested in the coverage of Air Italy as it has not really been a carrier of much use for most people from the UK. However, the comments made by Qatar made me think this could be one to watch. You have always been able to earn and redeem Avios on Meridiana (but no tier points) who are now called Air Italy and with ambitious expansion plans this could make for some interesting redemptions.
They are planning a fresh experience which is very customer focussed and up to the quality of Qatar Airways with the onboard product. Air Italy would like to be the national airline of Italy, although they admitted there could be more more than one! They plan to expand globally and will do this using 5 A330-200s leased from Qatar from mid 2018 and then new B787-8s from May 2019. Qatar have indicated that they want Air Italy to join OneWorld which could, of course, mean tier pints too but it will likely to take quite some time to achieve.
British Airways/Qatar joint agreement extended
British Airways and Qatar Airways have extended their joint business agreement to give customers more choice of destinations with new codeshare routes available. I have found that BA are often around £100 cheaper when booking Qatar flights through britishairways.com so this is good news potentially. I bought my recent tickets to Ho Chi Minh City on ba.com but flew on Qatar. The other excellent news is that if you book these routes through BA but fly on Qatar they will still count towards your 4 eligible flights for BA status.
Flights to/from the following 14 cities will be added to the joint business agreement between British Airways and Qatar Airways: Adelaide, Auckland, Canberra, Goa, Hanoi, Jakarta, Manila, Maputo, Melbourne, Pattaya, Penang, Perth, Phuket and Sohar.
Despite a long history of cancelling flights on its London to Doha route, from 1 July 2018 British Airways will also deploy its newest long-haul aircraft, a Boeing 787-9, on its Heathrow to Doha services. This hopefully means an end to all the cancellations. You can read Roving Reporter’s B787-9 review here.