Qatar Airways is planning to begin a daily nonstop flight to Atlanta next year as part of a broader expansion into the U.S. that also includes new flights to Boston and Los Angeles and a second daily flight to New York.
The Middle Eastern carrier’s announcement comes as as Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. and other U.S. airlines have asked the Department of Transportation to review “Open Skies” pacts with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, alleging that their oil-rich governments provide financial support that allows them to unfairly compete in global aviation markets. Qatar Airways, along with Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways, was named in the complaint, which also asks that the DOT suspend new passenger service during the review.
Qatar had previously said in 2012 that it was eyeing an Atlanta passenger flight. The airline already operates a cargo freighter here. The new route, slated for a July 1 start next year with 335 seats on a Boeing 777 aircraft. Qatar’s strength is long-haul international service.
“As Qatar Airways continues its global expansion, we are delighted to be offering even more gateways in the United States, connecting passengers from destinations across the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Southeast Asia,” Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said in a release that also called Atlanta the “business center of the Southeast.”
In some ways, the prize from Atlanta could be more convenient service to India. At present, there are few ways for the sizable Indian community in the Southeast U.S. to head back home without multiple stops. A community association recently sent a letter to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport General Manager Miguel Southwell asking him to court Middle Eastern carriers to boost Indian connectivity.
Mr. Southwell has strongly encouraged the development of new routes by putting in place an incentive program for airlines that begin new international service, prioritizing large developing countries like Brazil, India and China.
Qatar Airways is part of the oneworld airline alliance, which also includes American Airlines and British Airways, among many other global carriers.