Qatar Air to Start Direct Flights to PHL

Jeff Blumenthal, for Philadelphia Business Journal -- Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) said Monday that Qatar Airways has chosen Philadelphia as the airline’s fifth U.S. city. The airline is scheduled to begin nonstop service from PHL to Doha, the capital of the State of Qatar, in March 2014. Boeing 777 aircraft will serve the route, which is Philadelphia’s first to the independent state in the Southern Arabian Gulf region of the Middle East.

It will also be the second direct flight to and from the Middle East to begin service in recent years. U.S. Airways established daily, direct flights between PHL and Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv in 2009.

But the new service to Qatar is the first by a foreign carrier in more than a decade. And Qatar is the first foreign airline to the Middle East from PHL and would become the 4th non-U.S. airline to serve Philadelphia.

Qatar Airways serves more than 120 cities in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and North and South America.
“This is a great day for the entire Philadelphia region,” Mayor Michael Nutter said. “Convenient international air service in today’s global marketplace is essential to the economic vitality of a region, and this new direct service to Qatar gives businesses in the greater Philadelphia area access to a nation that has the world’s highest per capita GDP.”

Earlier this year, Nutter and several city officials, including Airport CEO Mark Gale, met with representatives of the nonprofit U.S.-Qatar Business Council. The Qatar delegation spent two days in Philadelphia and visited the PHL, where they met with Gale and other airport executives and were given a detailed presentation.

Qatar Airways is the fifth new airline since 2011 to announce it would begin serving PHL. Virgin America and Alaska Airlines began new service in 2012, Spirit Airlines launched at PHL in April and Jet Blue will start service later this month.

In a press release issued by Qatar Airways, the carrier’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, described Philadelphia as “one of the major hubs of the soon-to-be-merged American Airlines / US Airways and will provide Qatar Airways’ customers with onward connections to over 100 cities. With the implementation of code share agreements with American Airlines and Jet Blue, which offer numerous connections beyond our U.S. gateways, Qatar Airlines is making big strides to strengthen its presence in the United States to ultimately give our passengers greater travel options.”

PHL has been criticized for not having many direct flights outside of European destinations. But with Israel and Qatar and March’s announcement about US Airways’ plan to start up daily service between Philadelphia and Sao Paulo, Brazil, the city is slowly extending its international reach. Advocates for enhancing the city’s global profile have called for direct flights to Asia and South America.

Find the original article here on the Philadelphia Business Journal Site.