The OTR attended a press conference that Qatar Airways held a little while back to announce their inaugural flights to the US (4 flights weekly to Newark, via Geneva, with nonstops from Qatar to Washington, DC, coming soon). The airline is an impressive story, growing from nothing 10 years ago, to having 35% year over year growth since then — and continuing until 2010. A few notes:
— They’re building the only new airport in the world (not new terminal, new airport), a $10 billion affair that will house the largest runway in the world at 15,000 feet.
— They have the only dedicated first class terminal, which is extremely impressive, though at the fares they charge I’ll never see it.
— Their CEO is quite colorful. He was actually rather funny at times ("Don’t listen to the crap my competitors are saying"). And he handled a question (mostly) well about whether Qatar Airways will market to Jewish people. Though he did say, "What makes you think rich Jewish people haven’t flown (us) yet?" which sounds slightly offensive but wasn’t, though the laughs he garnered seemed to be mixed with a bit of uncomfortableness.
— I’ve mentioned this before, but along with Etihad and Emirates these Middle East – based carriers have changed the game for European airlines, who used to have a lock on Europe – to – Asia travel. This is especially true for people flying from Europe (and now the US) to the Indian Subcontinent. These airlines have alternately managed to cater to the huge ex-pat worker population that toils in the Middle East and returns home once a year (every other year?) and at the same time target high-end passengers with first and business classes that are second to none. Remember — no one had heard of any of these guys 10 years ago (in part because Etihad didn’t yet exist), but they’ve changed the whole game for European and Asian airlines. Very impressive…And if Americans can get over their ignorance about the safety of these airlines (they are among the most safe in the world), they’ll discover it’s a far better way to get to India than suffering in the back on American.