Qatar Airways will fly its new Airbus A350 to Perth in early 2015 as one of the launch routes for the next-generation jetliner, according to airline CEO Akbar Al Baker.
Speaking at a press conference at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, Al Baker told Australian Business Traveller that the current daily Perth-Doha Boeing 777 service would be upgraded to the new Airbus A350 "in early 2015, I hope."
Al Baker said that Perth was chosen both for being an "ultra long-haul route" from Qatar's Doha hub as well as for its importance as Australia's "mineral resources capital."
"The size (of a city) doesn't matter to us, it is the economic activity in that place that matters to us" Al Baker said.
"Perth will not be the launch route for the A350 but it will be one of the first ultra long-haul routes that we will operate" he added.
Qatar previously intended to run a Boeing 787 Dreamliner onto the Perth-Doha route from February 1st 2013, but cancelled those plans just two weeks shy of the launch when the Boeing 787 was grounded around the world after a series of critical overheating problems with the lithium-ion battery system.
However, Al Baker admitted that the long Perth-Doha flight would have been towards the edge of the operating range of the early model Boeing 787-8s which were ordered without the necessary crew rest.
By comparison, he said, the flight "can comfortably be flown by an Airbus A350 which is designed for these ultra long-haul routes."
Qatar's focus on Perth comes as its Gulf competitors also sharpen their sights on the WA capital.
Emirates is tipped to begin Airbus A380 flights to Perth later this year, while Etihad begins flying to Perth from July 15 this year and has also earmarked a Boeing 787-9 for Perth in the future.
At the same time, Qantas has axed regular international flights from Perth, with the Flying Kangaroo's Perth-Singapore route being shuttered from May 12th.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce attributed the controversial decision to "a giant wave of airline capacity that has reshaped Australian aviation", especially from low-cost airlines, partnered with "ongoing record fuel prices."
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.