Qatar Airways launches flights between Doha and Skopje – anna.aero joins the airline and TAV Macedonia for the inaugural service
Qatar Airways has added the Macedonian capital of Skopje to its network, commencing a four times weekly service from Doha that will be flown on the airline’s A320s. Launched on 17 July, the 3,309-kilometre route will operate on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Commenting on the arrival of the carrier in Skopje, Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker, said: “This summer is a busy one for Qatar Airways, as we continue our Eastern European expansion. Our new four times weekly service to Skopje is a much anticipated addition to our global route map, which will enable us to connect both business and leisure passengers to and from Macedonia. We look forward to welcoming our passengers on board flights to this captivating city.” Qatar Airways becomes Skopje’s first MEB3 and oneworld member carrier. The Macedonian capital becomes the airline’s 11th destination in Eastern Europe, with Qatar Airways already serving Baku, Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Moscow Domodedovo, Sofia, Tbilisi, Warsaw Chopin, Yerevan and Zagreb. The carrier also has plans to begin flights to Prague, Sarajevo and Kiev Boryspil soon, while it already serves a further 30 destinations in Western Europe when referring to OAG schedules.
Importance of connecting markets
The route is not only seen as being an important outbound connection to destinations around the globe, but it will also improve access for key inbound markets with strong connections to Macedonia, in particular Australia, where more than 200,000 Macedonian Australians live. The Qatar Airways connections via Doha to Australia has now cut 10 hours off the shortest travel time currently available from Skopje, when before this new service (unless self-connecting) only a two-stop routing was available for passengers on one ticket. The evidence of the Australian connection was clear on the first flight to Skopje, with anna.aero observing many passengers on the flight connecting with the airline from Australia, with plenty coming from Melbourne in particular. Most Macedonians in Australia live in the southern part of the country. The first flight to Skopje, which had a 100% load factor, also had passengers from Singapore, Hong Kong and China.
Macedonia is booming
It has been a busy week for Skopje Airport, not only with the arrival of Qatar Airways, but also due to the launch of a further three new routes by based airline Wizz Air. The ULCC has this week added Malta, Rome Ciampino and Vaxjo (all flown twice-weekly) to its ever-growing network at Skopje, with the airline now having four based aircraft in the Macedonian capital. With these route developments gains, it is no surprise to see that traffic from Macedonia has risen by 6.0% for the first six months of this year, when compared to the same period of 2016. A total of 860,130 passengers passed through both Macedonian airports between January and June this year.
anna.aero was invited by TAV to attend the launch of Qatar Airways to Skopje a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately for anna.aero, not only was it able to attend the launch, but it was also able to be on the first Qatar Airways flight from Doha to the capital of Macedonia, kindly arranged for them by the airline. This is the third Qatar Airways route launch that anna.aero has attended in the past 18 months. In March 2016, we covered the carrier’s inaugural service to Birmingham, while in February anna.aero travelled on the oneworld member’s first flight to Auckland, currently the longest commercial flight in the world.
Gala dinner and press conference
In the evening, after the celebrations had all taken place at the airport, it was then time for airline’s gala dinner which took place at the Marriott Hotel in the city centre. The gala dinner’s 100+ invitees including, Macedonian and Qatari VIPs, honoured guests from the travel industry and media, enjoyed a dazzling line-up of entertainment and a headline performance by famous Macedonian singer Jana Burceska who represented the nation at this year’s Eurovision song contest. Qatar Airways CCO Ehab Amin, said at the press conference: “I am delighted to be here today to celebrate the launch of Qatar Airways flights to Skopje, our new gateway into Eastern Europe from our hub at Hamad International Airport in Doha. Qatar Airways is proud to bring the five-star experience to the Macedonian capital, which is so rich in culture and history.”
Adding to Amin’s words, Alper Ersoy, GM TAV Macedonia, said: “Doha will be an exciting travel opportunity for Macedonian citizens, both in terms of leisure and business, but it will also become a new opportunity for Macedonians who live in Australia and New Zealand, to visit their motherland. Besides, we hope that Macedonia with its natural beauties and cultural-historical heritage, will be discovered as an interesting destination by Qatari tourists and businessmen. Presence of Qatar Airways in Macedonia as a brand, will make Skopje Airport even more attractive as a market, opening new possibilities for its development, while additionally it will contribute to further traffic growth.”