South Wales Echo - - FRONT PAGE - SION BARRY Busi­ness Ed­i­tor sion.barry@waleson­

THE first di­rect sched­uled air ser­vice from Cardiff Air­port to the Mid­dle East will launch next spring, it was re­vealed yes­ter­day.

Qatar Air­ways said its new sev­en­daysa-week ser­vice from Wales to Ha­mad In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Doha, Qatar, will make its in­au­gu­ral flight on May 1.

It will be op­er­ated on a Boe­ing 787 Dream­liner, which will be able to fly 254 pas­sen­gers, of which 22 seats will be busi­ness class. Tick­ets for the flights, which will take around five-and-a-half hours, are now on sale.

The Cardiff ser­vice will be the first reg­u­lar di­rect long-haul flight link­ing Wales and south-west Eng­land to a ma­jor global hub in the Gulf re­gion seven days a week.

The route is ex­pected to add more than 100,000 new pas­sen­gers a year to Cardiff Air­port, which is owned by the Welsh Govern­ment.

Qatar Air­ways group chief ex­ec­u­tive Ak­bar Al Baker said: “We are de­lighted to an­nounce the launch date for our di­rect ser­vice to Cardiff.

“Many trav­ellers cur­rently fly to and from Lon­don, us­ing ground transport be­tween Lon­don and Cardiff, so this new route will al­low pas­sen­gers to fly di­rect from Wales to Doha and be­yond for the first time.”

Chief ex­ec­u­tive of Cardiff Air­port De­bra Bar­ber said: “I am im­mensely proud that world-class air­line Qatar Air­ways has recog­nised the po­ten­tial that ex­ists within the re­gion and cho­sen Cardiff Air­port to op­er­ate a daily ser­vice.

“The ser­vice opens up a world of con­nec­tiv­ity for our cus­tomers to des­ti­na­tions across Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Africa and Asia.

“Over 1.4 mil­lion pas­sen­gers per year from the re­gion travel to des­ti­na­tions that are avail­able on the Qatar Air­ways net­work – 90% of th­ese pas­sen­gers are cur­rently trav­el­ling from Lon­don air­ports, which em­pha­sises just how much de­mand ex­ists within the mar­ket.

“We look for­ward to de­vel­op­ing our fruit­ful re­la­tion­ship with Qatar Air­ways over the com­ing months and to the start of this ex­cit­ing new route in May 2018.”

Cardiff Air­port chair­man Roger Lewis said: “This is a piv­otal mo­ment for Cardiff Air­port. The far reach­ing con­se­quences of this ser­vice for pas­sen­gers and busi­nesses across Wales and the south-west of Eng­land will be trans­for­ma­tional.

“Cardiff Air­port will now pro­vide the only daily sched­uled di­rect flight to the Gulf in the south-west of the UK. This is very spe­cial in­deed for us all.

“On a per­sonal note, I thank the Welsh Govern­ment for their sup­port over the past two-and-half years, and the Bri­tish Am­bas­sador to Qatar, His Ex­cel­lency, Ajay Sharma and his ex­cep­tional staff for their out­stand­ing sup­port with­out which we would not have achieved this suc­cess.

“I am to­tally con­fi­dent that the ded­i­cated and hard­work­ing team at Cardiff Air­port will de­liver a world­class ser­vice with Qatar Air­ways for pas­sen­gers and busi­nesses vis­it­ing Wales and trav­el­ling across the world.

“The crit­i­cally im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship be­tween Qatar, Wales and the United King­dom is sub­stan­tially strength­ened to­day.”

First Min­is­ter Car­wyn Jones said: “The daily ser­vice be­tween Cardiff and Doha is a huge boost for Wales.

“It will open up Wales’ links with the rest of the world and de­liver new eco­nomic, leisure and travel op­por­tu­ni­ties for Welsh busi­nesses and the peo­ple of Wales.

“Pro­vid­ing a di­rect route into the world’s fastest grow­ing hub air­port, Ha­mad In­ter­na­tional, will also bring Wales closer to lead­ing global mar­kets such as In­dia, China, Sin­ga­pore and Aus­trala­sia.”

Qatar Air­ways will be fly­ing from Cardiff Air­port to Doha in Qatar seven days a week from May 1 next year

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