(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Qatar Airways Wednesday extended its Middle East routes with launching scheduled flights to the northern city of Erbil, Iraq.
The Doha-based airline is operating four-flights-a-week non-stop on the route to Erbil, flights to the capital Baghdad, also operating four-times-a-week, will then follow on June 7th.
Erbil and Baghdad services will operate with an Airbus A320 in a two-class configuration of 12 seats in Business Class and 132 in Economy.
For his part, Qatar Airways Senior Vice-President GCC, Levant, Iran, Iraq and Indian Sub-continent Fathi Al Shehab was onboard the inaugural flight QR 446.
Arriving at Erbil International Airport, a traditional water salute welcomed the flight followed by an airport ceremony attended by local officials.
On this occasion, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said, "Iraq has long been underserved due to the political and economic difficulties the country has faced over the years, but Iraq is undergoing reform, opening up to rapid infrastructure improvements and improved air access in an area for so long depleted by sufficient number of flights."
Looking forward the route expansion, Al Baker said "With the changes taking place, there are a growing number of opportunities across the country prompting more international air travel. We look forward to making Erbil and our start-up to Baghdad next month a huge success."
Meanwhile Al Shehab told media and local airport officials "Erbil is the latest route launch for Qatar Airways in a busy year that now sees the fifth destination added to the carrier s global network since January."
"We have been working with the travel trade and corporations not only in Iraq, but around our network to build these two routes together." Al Shehab said adding that the two new routes "will further promote business and trade. And of course by flying here, we help Iraqis all over the world get a step closer to their families and homes for short breaks or long holidays."
Erbil, 350km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, is third largest city and fastest growing with a population of over one million people. The city is rich in natural reserves of oil and gas oil, gold and other deposits.
Qatar Airways passengers flying to Iraq from destinations across the Gulf, Europe, Indian subcontinent, Asia Pacific and The Americas have excellent connections via the airline s Doha hub.
Qatar Airways has launched earlier in 2012 five new flights to Baku (Azerbaijan); Tbilisi (Georgia); Kigali (Rwanda); and Zagreb (Croatia).
Over the next few months, Qatar Airways will launch flights to Perth, Australia (July 3); Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (July 25); Mombasa, Kenya (August 15); Yangon, Myanmar (October 3) and to the Serbian capital Belgrade during September.
Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in just 15 years of operation, currently operating a modern fleet of 108 aircraft to 115 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.