Qatar Airways is on the lookout for new potential destinations in the Americas following its successful launch of service to Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires.

The carrier in late June launched a daily flight on the Doha-Sao Paulo-Buenos Aires route. The route is Qatar's first to South America and its fourth in the Americas overall, joining Houston, New York JFK and Washington Dulles.

"We're very pleased with the way it has started and are very satisfied with the initial load factors," Qatar Airways senior vice-president for the Americas Tony Hughes says. "It's still a baby but I think it will be the success we hoped for."

He says about two thirds of Qatar's passengers on the route are heading to or from Brazil but the carrier has been able to keep the Sao Paulo-Buenos Aires leg full as it has pick-up rights between Brazil and Argentina. "We've been surprised how full it's been," Hughes says, adding that offering a Sao Paulo-Buenos Aires service "has given the local market a chance to try us on a local flight". This in turn has helped Qatar build brand awareness in South America, where the airline was until this year unknown.

Qatar Airways fleet
  © Qatar Airways

Hughes says Qatar chose to launch Brazil and Argentina in 2010 instead of opening a fourth route to North America because South America was the only hole in its fast-growing network. He says there was also "huge demand" for services between the Middle East and South America, a market currently only served by Emirates. Hughes says Doha-Sao Paulo was in particular a "very attractive" market for its fleet of Boeing 777-200LR ultra long-range aircraft.

Qatar now operates eight 777-200LRs, which it also uses to serve Melbourne in Australia and Houston. Qatar's fleet of 11 777-300ERs are now used on its New York and Washington routes. Hughes says Qatar has more of both types coming next year. Additional 777-200LRs could potentially be used to open a new route to the central US or west coast while additional 777-300ERs could be used to add an east coast destination.

Hughes says Qatar's Boeing 787s also "have the potential to come to the States". Qatar now expects to receive the first of 30 787s in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Hughes says Qatar has not yet decided whether its next batch of widebodies will be deployed across the Atlantic or on other long-haul routes. But he says the carrier fully intends to expand its North American network and "I'm sure by this time next year" the carrier will have added a fourth North American destination.

Source: Flight Daily News