Qatar Airways is expanding its Qatar Executive private aviation venture with three Bombardier jets, with one of the orders apparently coming as unexpected news to the manufacturer.
Announcing the acquisition of two Global 5000s to add to its all-Bombardier fleet of two Challenger 605s and a Challenger 300, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker added that he would also be taking a further Global 605 to use as a medevac aircraft. The medevac sector is an important one in the Middle East, where many high-net-worth individuals choose to travel to Europe and North America for medical treatment. Bombardier's head of business aircraft Steve Ridolfi, sitting beside Al Baker at the press conference, described the additional aircraft announcement as a "nice surprise".
The two Global 5000s - which can fly passengers from Doha to Hong Kong at 49,000ft (15km) - will be fitted with wi-fi and seat-back televisions. They will be delivered in October this year and August next year, respectively, and allow Qatar Executive to "offer increased flexibility", says Al Baker. He dismisses claims that the bubble has burst for business aviation since the global financial crisis: "There are still individuals who want to conduct face to face meetings and travel in the shortest possible time," he says.
Qatar Airways announced its Qatar Executive division at last year's Paris air show. Although some of the market for the new service is expected to come from customers connecting from Middle Eastern cities to Qatar's Doha hub for long-haul flights, Al Baker says the product will not compete with the airline's premium commercial offering.
"This is a total dedicated service for people who need seamless business travel," he says. "There are people with very deep pockets in this region."
He will not put a figure on Qatar Executive's likely eventual fleet. "We always begin with humble numbers at Qatar Airways," he says. "We will expand in a systematic way. We will take on additional aircraft but we are satisfied with where we are for the moment."