Airline says operation - launching with an A300-600 - could generate 30% of its revenue

Qatar Airways is preparing to set up a dedicated cargo arm, which could begin operations by the end of the year and eventually generate a third of the airline's revenue.

According to Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker the airline is negotiating the lease of an ex-CityBird Airbus A300-600 Freighter from Airbus. "If we can get the aircraft we could put it into service by September or October," he says.

Qatar aims to boost its dedicated cargo fleet later through the conversion of its two owned A300-600R passenger aircraft. Qatar's six A300s will become surplus to requirements when the airline receives the A330-200s it has on option in four years time. The airline's long range fleet upgrade will begin next April with the delivery of the first of five firmly ordered A330-200s. Qatar's three A330 options will arrive in 2005, at which point Al Baker says the four leased A300s will be returned to lessors, and its two owned aircraft will undergo cargo conversion, replacing the leased A300 freighter.

"We see a big cargo market through our Doha hub, both for direct import and transit between markets such as Pakistan/India, Europe and the Levant," says Al Baker who expects cargo to ultimately represent around 30% of the airline's sales. One idea is to fly to a low cost cargo hub in Europe, such as Luxembourg, and then truck goods to other countries.

Meanwhile, Al Baker is confident Lufthansa will re-instate its codeshare with Qatar Airways "within two months" after the airline amends its flight operations. Qatar had been carrying Lufthansa codes on its Munich flights but this was suspended two months ago after a Lufthansa Consulting audit of the airline raised some issues.

Al Baker claims that these issues were relatively minor, such as the need to reorganise its crisis centre arrangements with Emirates.

Source: Flight International