By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Qatar Airways, the official flag carrier of Qatar and multiple award-winning airline, said they do not have plans of going back to Cebu, but will focus on its three existing destinations in the country Manila, Clark, and now Davao.
Rohan Seneviratne, country manager for Qatar Airways Philippines, said they suspended its Cebu services due to commercial reasons. The airline opened its Cebu service in December 2003 and suspended the operation in 2012.
“As of now, we are just trying to develop these three cities – Manila, Clark and Davao,” said Seneviratne during a one-on-one interview following the roundtable discussion with media for the launch of the airline’s direct weekly service. At present, Qatar Airways operates 50 weekly passenger flights to and from the Philippines.
“The route will be Doha-Clark–Davao-Doha. So out of Davao, we operate directly to Doha,” he said.
With the addition of Davao, the official flag carrier of Qatar hopes to improve its current high load factor of 80 percent. Clark has been growing double-digit, but the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) operation has higher.
“Clark is extremely doing very well with double-digit growth year on year at almost 80 percent, but Manila is higher,” he said.
“With this market, we can gradually look at a very good load factor. We know we cannot attain 75 percent load factor in the first or two years, but definitely we want to get there soon.”
To generate more revenues from its Philippine operations, the company would focus on promoting all segments of travellers – tourists, religious travels, overseas workers, merchant ships/sailors– from the Southern Mindanao and from Qatar.
The decision to fly to Davao was largely because of the growing volume of passengers going to Davao as the city has become a popular destination for tourists. There are also more than 2.5 million Filipino overseas from Southern Philippines.
Notably, there are 255,000 Filipinos reside in Qatar or 17 percent of the Gulf states population.
“Instead of going to Manila, they can fly from Davao,” he said.
Travelers from Southern Philippines can fly via Qatar Airways, which connects to other parts of the world including European cities.
With OneWorld, a global airline alliance, the Gulf carrier enables its passengers to benefit from more than 1,000 airports in more than 160 countries, with 14,250 daily departures. Qatar Airways currently operates a modern fleet of more than 250 aircraft via its hub, Hamad International Airport.
Qatar Airways Senior Vice President Asia Pacific Marwan Koleilat said during the VIP Corporate dinner attended by the city’s most influential VIPs and politicians: “I am very pleased to be here tonight to celebrate the launch of our new direct service from Davao. The Philippines is an important destination for us, with 50 weekly passenger flights to and from Qatar and we are delighted to now be able to connect travellers directly to Davao, one of the busiest in the Philippines. We are confident that leisure travellers will find much to enjoy in this charming city.”
Koleilat said Filipinos can apply tourist visa online. Qatar currently grants free visas to 80 countries though.
When asked during the roundtable discussion about the security issue with Mindanao still under the state of Martial Law by President Duterte, a former mayor of Davao, Seneviratne downplayed the issue saying Davao is one of the safest cities in the Philippines.
Flights to Davao are operated by the Boeing B787 Dreamliner, with 22 seats in Business Class and 232 seats in Economy Class. Passengers will be able to enjoy the airline’s superior entertainment system Oryx One offering passengers a wide variety of entertainment options.
The Philippines is also an important air freight market for Qatar Airways, with the carrier’s cargo arm offering a weekly capacity of 350 tonnes each way on the Doha-Manila-Doha route and 70 tons on the Doha-Clark-Doha route. With the introduction of flights from Doha to Davao on the Doha-Clark-Davao-Doha route, exporters in Davao will be offered direct connection to destinations in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas via Doha.
Aside from Davao, the airline will add a number of new destinations to its extensive route network in the second half of 2019, including Lisbon, Portugal; Mogadishu, Somalia, and Langkawi, Malaysia.
A multiple award-winning airline, Qatar Airways was named ‘World’s Best Business Class’ by the 2018 World Airline Awards, managed by international air transport rating organisation Skytrax.
It was also named ‘Best Airline in the Middle East’, ‘World’s Best First Class Airline Lounge’ and ‘Best Business Class Seat’, in recognition of its ground-breaking Business Class experience, Qsuite. Qatar Airways has been awarded the coveted “Skytrax Airline of the Year” title, which is recognized as the pinnacle of excellence in the airline industry, five times.
Qsuite, a patented Qatar Airways product, features the industry’s first-ever double bed in Business Class, as well as privacy panels that stow away, allowing passengers in adjoining seats to create their own private room, a first of its kind in the industry.
Oryx One, Qatar Airways’ in-flight entertainment system offers passengers up to 4,000 entertainment options from the latest blockbuster movies, TV box sets, music, games and much more. Passengers flying on Qatar Airways flights served by its B787, B777, A350, A380, A319 and select A320 and A330 aircraft can also stay in touch with their friends and family around the world by using the award-winning airline’s on-board Wi-Fi and GSM service.