While it still struggles with a Saudi-led boycott of trade with several Middle East nations, Qatar Airways is looking elsewhere and following through on its planned expansion of operations in Latin America. The Doha-based carrier announced plans to offer passenger flights on cargo-friendly A350-900 widebodies from Doha to Rio de Janeiro and Santiago, beginning next year.
The newly announced flights will operate four times per week, with service from Doha to Rio de Janeiro before going on to Santiago, said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Bakar.
This expansion of passenger and belly-cargo services to South America is part of Qatar Airways’ stated strategy to meet growing import and export trade demand in the region. The carrier has accelerated steps to increase its market share in the region in 2016 and 2017.
So far this year, Qatar Airways announced that it would lease four A350-900 aircraft from LATAM for up to a year and began 777 freighter services to São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Quito; as of Aug. 1, the carrier launched its new codeshare agreement with LATAM Airlines Brazil. The agreement includes codeshares on LATAM’s routes between São Paulo and 25 other cities across Brazil. In December 2016, Qatar Airways also acquired 10 percent of the LATAM Airlines Group.
Since early June, several Arab countries – including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – cut off ties with Qatar and imposed a trade blockade, citing allegations that Qatar was supporting terrorist groups in the region by strengthening ties with Iran.