Executive Charter Expands As Qatar Airways Seeks An Edge Over Gulf Airline Rivals
Qatar Airways’s colorful CEO, Akbar Al Baker, has made a name for himself at the helm of one of the Gulf region’s trio of fast-growing airlines. But alongside his United Arab Emirates rivals Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways he can claim an additional string to his bow that the other two have so far overlooked: the creation of an executive jet division.
Established in 2009, Qatar Executive’s cross-selling potential has allowed it to offer first- and business-class passengers extra connectivity, plus the added safety and security that government and business delegations require, or luxury breaks for high-net-worth individuals. The operator’s service portfolio also includes large airliner charter, aircraft management, maintenance and a full range of FBO services at Doha International Airport.
“We are one of a few airlines in the world to operate our own private jet division, which is an integral part of our differentiation strategy, as it allows us to distinguish ourselves from the competition and [completes] our product portfolio in the premium segment,” said Al Baker.
On top of the mother company’s 100-plus aircraft, Qatar Executive (Stand 2027) operates six jets: three Bombardier Challenger 605s, two Global 5000s and a Global Express XRS. “For now, we plan to expand these two fleets, but other fleet types are continuously being evaluated,” said Al Baker.
“Today, Qatar Executive operates the youngest fleet of business jet aircraft in the Middle East,” he claimed. He declined to give details on further fleet expansion, but Qatar Executive is understood to be in negotiations to be the Middle East launch customer for the Bombardier Global 7000/8000 family. Having the backing of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has undoubtedly given the operator a greater degree of security in making long-term investments at a time when privately owned charter firms have faced challenging business conditions.
Qatar Executive uses a dedicated 69,000-sq-ft hangar at Doha for maintenance operations, also serving other carriers. The division has just been appointed as authorized service facility in the Middle East for Bombardier Challenger 300, Challenger 604, Challenger 605 and the manufacturer’s entire family of business jets for the Middle East.
The operator employs over 80 staff, with almost 30 dedicated flight crew. Pilots perform simulator visits twice a year at the CAE training center in Dubai. Construction is under way for an FBO at the New Doha International Airport, which is expected to be ready in around 2015.
Having Qatar Airways’ global sales and marketing support behind it, as well as the mother company’s expertise in dealing with aircraft and engine manufacturers is a boon to the executive airline in negotiating business jet purchases, warranties and maintenance support.