by Simon Calder from The Independent, April 24, 2017
Cardiff will be one stop from Australia, Bali and New Zealand from next year. Qatar Airways has announced the Welsh airport will be its sole new UK departure point for 2018.
The airline’s chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, revealed the new route between Cardiff and Doha along with 11 other destinations for 2018, including Utapao in Thailand, Chittagong in Bangladesh and the Kenyan coastal city Mombasa.
Deb Barber, the airport’s chief executive, said: “I am immensely proud that Qatar Airways has chosen Cardiff Airport to operate its new service to Doha.
"It is fantastic that we will now be able to offer our customers more choice of travel with a world-class airline providing easy connections to destinations across the world.”
The key details of the service – including the start date, the frequency and the aircraft type – are still not known. But it is likely to begin with a narrow-bodied Airbus A320 for the seven-hour flight to Doha. Cardiff airport says the service will be “frequent”, but past experience suggests it may be four days a week.
At Doha, passengers will be able to connect to 150 destinations, with the major Australian cities expected to be popular routes.
Qatar Airways also operates the world’s longest flight, connecting Doha non-stop with Auckland – a distance of more than 9,000 miles.
Cardiff airport, awkwardly located south-west of the Welsh capital at Rhoose, has struggled financially for years. It was controversially bought by the Welsh Government four years ago for £52m.
The claim by Cardiff of “the first regular direct long-haul flight linking Wales and south-west England to a major global hub in the Gulf” will infuriate Bristol airport, just seven minutes’ flying time to the east.
Bristol calls itself “a world-leading regional airport serving the South-west and Wales,” and claims it handles more Welsh people than Cardiff airport. It has been actively seeking a Gulf-based airline, and is likely now to redouble its efforts to attract Emirates of Dubai or Etihad of Abu Dhabi.
A link to Istanbul has long been on the cards, but a downturn in demand has dented Turkish Airlines’ expansion plans.