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Qatar Airways ‘Keen’ to Add Flights in Latin America

Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Qatar Airways Ltd. plans to expand in Latin America, tapping into rising demand from Brazil and Argentina for international flights, Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al-Baker said.

“We are keen to expand in both Central and South America,” Al-Baker said in an interview yesterday in Sao Paulo. “Latin America is a sleeping economic giant. If Brazil, Argentina and Chile get together, and we measure the economics of these three countries, they are a huge powerhouse.”

Since the Doha-based state airline started a daily flight in June that goes both to Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires, average occupancy has been above 85 percent. Should the level remain high, Al-Baker said, the company will split the route and create a direct flight to each city.

Most travelers from Latin America use Doha as a connecting hub for other cities served by Qatar Air and don’t have Doha as a final destination, according to Al-Baker. This suits the company’s strategy of servicing a hub that connects different regions of the world, he said.

Qatar Air remains committed to Bombardier Inc.’s CSeries regional plane, Al-Baker said, even after Airbus SAS said it would put a new engine in its single-aisle aircraft, the A320. He said the company is interested in the new plane, dubbed the A320 Neo, but not for present orders.

Al-Baker said Qatar wouldn’t order the Neo as a replacement for the CSeries, should the Canadian program fail to deliver, because the aircraft are of different classes and the Airbus model wouldn’t fit into the role Qatar wants for the Canadian plane, he said.

Bombardier is “continuing to discuss” the CSeries with Qatar Air, Guy Hachey, president of the Montreal-based company’s aerospace business, said yesterday on a conference call with analysts.

Qatar Air was founded in 1994 and serves 95 destinations worldwide.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jose Sergio Osse in Sao Paulo at josse1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Francisco Marcelino mdeoliveira@bloomberg.net

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