Qatar Airways, the tiny gulf nation’s national carrier has received flying rights between Doha and the French cities of Lyons and Nice, barely months after Qatar signed up to buy 24 Dassault Rafale aircraft.
The grant of flying rights against stiff opposition by Air France and its unions is considered as an offset for the purchase of 24 Rafale fighter jets worth 6.3 billion euro (US$7.02 billion) by the Qatari air force.
Due to the geographical location Qatar Airways hub, Dona, it stands at an advantage in ferrying passengers between Asia and Europe. Unlike Air France which can only fly between Asian and French airports directly, Qatar airways can pick up passengers from Asia and fly them almost midway to its hub in Doha from where different flights will take passengers to various destinations in Europe and North America.
In addition, Qatar Airways enjoys lower operating cost largely due to subsidized fuel. Gulf based carriers such as Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad have grown substantially over the last decade largely due to their location advantage and lower operating costs to the detriment of European and North America based airlines.
French media reported today said that Paris gave the go-ahead to Qatar to add more routes in France, a move it had blocked for a couple of years now. The reading is that it preferred the increased revenue to its fighter aircraft maker, Dassault and the huge ancillary industry it supports, than supporting its national carrier.
Another reason for the grant of flying rights is that Qatar and other Gulf carriers are big buyers of commercial airplanes, largely from Airbus and Boeing. France stands to benefit in a great measure if Airbus sells increased number of planes as a number of Airbus’ manufacturing and assembly facilities are in France.