Qatar Airways announced Monday that it plans to add San Francisco as its twelfth U.S. destination. Additionally, another 11 tentative destinations were announced to be added in the future. The San Francisco service was said to begin sometime in 2018 although specific details were not revealed.
The lack of details leaves many doubtful that the plan will be put into effect around the predicted time. The company’s CEO Akbar Al Baker is known for making ambiguous plans which are then pushed back.
In 2016 Baker announced the inclusion of Las Vegas as the 11th U.S. destination. Since then the starting date for flights has been moved from 2017 to January 8th of 2018. The company finally opened Las Vegas flights for sale on its website on Monday.
Qatar Airway’s non-stop flight from Doha to Auckland, New Zealand began with a similar story. The flight, currently the longest commercial passenger flight in the world, was first revealed at high-profile travel expo as the first of many new flight destinations. It was originally declared to launch December 3rd, 2016 but was delayed until February 5th, 2017.
The San Francisco flights would be an opportunity for the airline to tap into one more of the major U.S. markets. Qatar Airways already provides flights to Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago O’Hare, Philadelphia, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston Bush Intercontinental, Miami, New York JFK, Boston, and Washington Dulles.
Controversy has arisen surrounding the announcement as the three largest U.S. airlines, United, American, and Delta, have long-held the belief that the federal restrictions on flight capacity to the U.S. should be placed on Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad, considered the three major airlines of the Persian Gulf.
The three U.S. airlines have come together to create a lobbying group in an attempt to end what they consider the unfair subsidies which the Gulf carriers have benefited from. Meanwhile, several smaller U.S. airlines including Hawaiian and JetBlue and cargo carriers FedEx and Atlas Air have shown support for the Gulf carriers in the form of their own lobbying group.
However, not every Gulf carrier wants to expand flight services to more of the U.S. Emirates recently declared a plan to cut back on U.S. flights by about 20% in the coming months. This is in reaction to a decreased demand for U.S. travel after the attempts of the Trump administration to restrict travel from several historically Muslim countries as well as increased electronics bans.
Regardless, Baker seems intent on seeing the San Francisco plan to fruition. How soon it will go into effect, however, is uncertain.
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