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Qatar Airways hoping to launch Belfast flights, says the CEO

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I was in Cardiff yesterday to watch the First Minister of Wales and the Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive inaugurate the new service from Cardiff to Doha.  It is currently operating five days per week but will increase to daily from June.

All services will use a new Boeing 787 in a 22 Business / 232 Economy configuration.

The Qatar Airways CEO gave another of his famously unscripted speeches.  One of his plans is to build a five-star hotel in Cardiff – there are no five-star hotels at present – as part of the airline’s nascent hotel arm.  This would, as he said clearly, be dependent on ‘support’ from the First Minister.

The most interesting item of note was the stated wish to launch services from Belfast as the next UK departure point.  Given that the airline is about to start flying to Malaga, Luxembourg, Valletta, Antalya and Tallinn, Belfast doesn’t seem that crazy.

Comments (84)

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  • " says:

    BA and EI services switched from Belfast International (BFS near Antrim) to George Best City (BHD on harbour) ages ago, so surprised there are still issues.

    Runway much larger at BFS and plenty of spare capacity.

    But can’t see Qatar making a success of things – even with lavish tax payer funded “incentives.”

    Issue is Dublin just down motorway, which competes for Northern Ireland long haul traffic.

    • Michael says:

      EI moves from BFS (Belfast International) to BHD (BELFAST City) around 2012 (after 5 years there) and BFS took them to court for alleged breach of contract. BA left BFS back in 2002 when they canned the route in the post 9/11 downturn. They took over the BHD route from BD in their takeover in 2012. Both operate from BHD on a rationalised schedule with BA codeshares on EI services.

      BFS is potentially a good market with lots of BA traffic transiting LHR currently. Yes, DUB is just down the road with EK, EY and TK all established. However there’s no APD on non-stop long haul flights from NI and the weak pound makes BFS originating flights more interesting to ROI passengers.

      • Londonbus says:

        I’d observe that certainly point-to-point it makes no sense. However. QR is all about connecting feed – and the network would give Belfast good opportunities. Maybe this is one of those routes which will work with A350/A787?

  • Aeronaut says:

    Was this your first ever visit to Cymru, Rob?

    • Rob says:

      First time in Cardiff, yes.

      • Andrew Harrison says:

        Probably why you wouldn’t know that the St Davids Hotel in Cardiff is 5 star.

        • Rob says:

          It can have five stars on the door, doesn’t mean it is a five star hotel.

          It was VERY amusing watching Al Baker announce (in the St David’s, where he had stayed the night before) that Cardiff doesn’t have any good hotels and he would like to build one.

        • Lady London says:

          Just as well he probably wouldn’t have been staying the following night as well, then.

  • Kip says:

    There’s currently a 10% discount on QR flights from MAN with promo code MANQR15.

  • Jimbo says:

    On the Harrods offer – I see that it’s limited to the first 12,000 amex holders who make use of not. Will amex tell us when that threshold is reached / withdraw the offer or so you just have to incur the spend and cross your fingers?

    • Anna says:

      When you register for the offer it tells you if it’s saved to your card.

      • Stu N says:

        The offer will disappear when they have hit 12,000 registrations – it then sits there until either you use it or it expires.

        • Stu N says:

          Sorry – that’s not clear at all. The offer will sits in the available offers list until you register it to your card. Once 12,000 people have registered it, it stops being available.

          If you’ve registered it, it sits in “my offers” and will stay there until you use it or it expires.

  • Javgil says:

    ‘in Cardiff – there are no five-star hotels at present‘

    Either you or Al Baker is wrong here, there’s been at least one since the 90’s

    • Rob says:

      We met at The Principal St David’s and Al Baker was staying there. He clearly hates it.

  • Kipto says:

    St David’s Hotel in Cardiff Bay is a five star hotel.

    • Rob says:

      We were in that hotel. Al Baker says it is 4 star. Based on what I saw I would agree.

      • JPR says:

        The only time I was there I was nearly overcome by the smell of chlorine from the pool, even in the huge reception area. The room was on the ground floor and almost the entire view was blocked by a ramp of some sort. Staff very unhelpful.

      • Waribai says:

        Interesting. I remember on here a few years ago someone claiming there was no point at staying at the international chains since in Turkey since you could stay at a particular independent 5 star hotel for a few quid a night.
        A quick look at the photos on tripadvisor showed that although the hotel may have claimed it was 5 star, it was nowhere near the standards of the international 5 star establishments.

        Is there any organisation which decides whether a hotel is 5 star or not?

        • Rob says:


        • James says:

          Hotels in the UK star ratings are awarded and managed by four Hotel rating boards: The AA, Visit Britain, Visit Scotland and Visit Wales
          Both the AA and Visit Britain give St David’s 5 stars, which is what counts, not Al Baker’s, or anyone else’s made up star rating.

          • Rob says:

            Not really. His point is that, irrespective of the star rating, St David’s is simply not of the sort of quality that guests at – say – a Four Seasons would expect. This impacts the willingness of some people to visit Cardiff if they do not believe there is accommodation of a suitable standard.

  • Will says:

    I’m confused. Hasn’t the glorious leader of the free state of Qatar’s airline just hinted at some pretty gloriously bad financials for last year. How come the expansion drive to obscure places continues?

    • Genghis says:

      Is profit the only motive?

    • John says:

      The losses came from the Saudi problem and having to rebook everyone while losing some lucrative income streams, expanding is a way to mitigate that.

    • eBungle says:

      I guess the question is, how much is the Welsh tax payer “supporting” to let their first minister prance about on stage?

      The real question is, with Welsh public finances struggling is supporting a Qatar long haul route realy the best use of tax money?

      • Rob says:

        It isn’t a bad use of money. Not directly, but there is a lot of indirect benefit if it works.

        It is certainly a great deal for travel bloggers who can now apply to Qatar Airways for a free trip to the UK, funded from the ‘marketing support’ fund. That’s how I got my business class trip to Ras Al Khaimah two years ago.

  • Anonymous user no 554 says:

    Any recent experience of self- referring for a new Amex? Is it worth the risk of referring from my own Platinum instead of partner’s card? 18,000 MRs vs 9,000 Avios with risk of nothing…?

    • Laineyling says:

      My husband and I tried this in Jan 208 and it didn’t work. We used his plat card to try and refer me for a BAPP. I followed the link and selected other cards. We didn’t get the referral , amex said I didn’t go through the link, followed up with calls but nothing.

      Not sure if anyone else has had success recently.

      • Crafty says:

        That isn’t a self referral, that’s a normal referral. It should have worked so sounds like a link tracking problem.

        Anonymous user is referring to one referring oneself (to exploit poor programming in Amex IT).

      • Anna says:

        I got the Platinum about 2 months ago, done 4 MR referrals where the points have appeared in a week or less, one BA where the referral points still haven’t appeared 4 weeks on. Queried it and they said it takes up to 10 weeks!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      2 weeks ago

    • Harpreet says:

      We did this last month and it appeared to work fine. Got the 18k bonus.

      • Rob says:

        I self- referred from Plat to SPG about a month ago. No problems receiving 18k MR.

        • Barry says:

          How exactly do you self refer? Do you just send the referral link to yourself? Do you have to use a different email address for it to work?

          Planning on upgrading to the Platinum next month and then self referring to the BAPP once I’ve qualified for the bonus before cancelling.

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