The European Union (“EU”) and Qatar have concluded their negotiations on a new bilateral air agreement. Its finalization will still to take a few weeks. The historic agreement will give all airlines on each side unrestricted access to all airports in their respective territories.
Announced on 5 February 2019 by Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport, the agreement between the EU and the State of Qatar is a comprehensive agreement on air transport, which provides a significant competitive advantage to the airlines of both parties and a sustainable framework for their future operations. As a result, all airlines in the 28 EU member states and Qatar now have unrestricted access to their respective territories – depending on the slots available at airports, of course.
Qatar and the EU have reached agreements on topics ranging from fair competition between Qatar Airways and European carriers, to consumer protection, and transparency, as well as the exemption for European carriers from the obligation to hire a local sales agent in Qatar. This historic agreement is also a highly strategical move for the State of Qatar as the country is under a blockade imposed by a quartet of gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia.
European Commission Director General Mobility and Transport, Mr. Henrik Hololei, said: “We are very pleased to have concluded our negotiations with the State of Qatar here in Doha today. Thanks to the strong commitment of all parties, we have managed to reconcile our differences and found common ground through honest engagement and open dialogue.”
“We have taken bold steps by agreeing to articles on fair competition, social aspects, business practices, and transparency,” said Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker.
A good news for passengers
This agreement could be a good news for European passengers, especially those traveling from smaller cities, which are typically not served by Qatar Airways, even though the airline already flies to an impressive 55 cities in Europe. Passengers will be able to fly directly to Doha, and from there, travel to any of the 160 destinations of Qatar Airways around the world, especially in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
It is also a good news for business customers, as the company’s business class is often hailed as the best in the world. Last year, Qatar Airways received the award for “Best Business Class in the World” at the Skytrax World Airline Awards.
It remains to be seen now how Qatar Airways intends to deploy, once the agreement in force. The company, which has 230 aircraft, will need to find synergies in terms of schedules and services with its alliance partners within Oneworld, e.g. British Airways and Iberia.