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Qatar Airways CEO warns Netherlands against freezing expansion plans

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Weeks before Qatar Airways launches its first direct flight to Amsterdam, the national carrier’s CEO has warned Dutch companies that they may find themselves shut out of commercial opportunities here unless the airline is allowed to expand its service to the Netherlands.

Speaking at a press conference in the Dutch capital today, Akbar Al Baker told reporters that he’d like to add more passenger and cargo flights to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on top of the six weekly flights that are scheduled to commence June 16.

“We wouldn’t mind to come here double-daily,” Al Baker said.

The official’s remarks come after Dutch newspaper Financieele Dagblad reported this week that the Netherlands government has frozen the number of flights that Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad can operate to Schiphol.

The move is reportedly in response to ongoing allegations that the Gulf carriers receive unfair government subsidies that allow them to undercut their European and American rivals.

Al Baker did not address that freeze directly, but warned there would be economic consequences if the Netherlands moved to restrict Qatar Airways’ access to Schiphol:

“Netherlands, for centuries, has been a trading country … (But) I believe it is now your government policy not to give any additional (flight) frequencies,” he said. “If you don’t allow us to benefit in a small way by bringing additional flights to Netherlands, then you should also not expect a lot of commercial contracts from our government. It’s as simple as that.”

Like many countries, the Netherlands is hoping that its companies can profit from Qatar’s massive infrastructure building boom.

In a November 2013 speech at Qatar University, Henk Kamp – the Netherlands’ minister of economic affairs – spoke about how Dutch companies can help Qatar prepare for the 2022 World Cup:
“The Netherlands is a world leader in energy efficient construction, and we can put this knowledge to good use in major construction projects in Qatar.”

Philippines push

Separately, Qatar Airways is holding talks this week with aviation regulators in the Philippines.

According to local media, the carrier is aiming to add 13 more weekly flights between Doha’s Hamad International Airport and Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The Manila Standard Daily reports:

“Once granted, the request would boost the services of the Qatari airline to 21 Doha-Manila flights a week, the highest frequency of flights offered by any Middle Eastern airline to the Philippine capital.”

It continued:

“Qatar Airways also flies seven times a week from Doha to Clark International Airport, a service inaugurated in 2013 after the Qatari airline reduced its Doha-Naia flights from 14 to 8 times per week in November 2013 to comply with limits set by the Philippines-Qatar air pact currently in effect.”

Competition on the Doha-Manila route will heat up for Qatar Airways this summer when budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air begins flying between the capitals on June 4.

According to the airline – the largest in the Philippines – the goal is to serve over 260,000 Filipinos in Qatar, which is home to the third-largest Filipino community in the Middle East.


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