Jul 10 2012
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AIR SHOW: Qatar Airlines Mulls UK Soccer Deal
Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012
By Alex Delmar-Morgan
FARNBOROUGH, England- Qatar Airways is mulling sponsoring an English Premier League soccer club as the aggressive Gulf airline, which is among Middle East and other Asian carriers that have grabbed a growing share of long-haul traffic to Europe, seeks to enhance its overseas reputation ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said Tuesday that after approaches by two English soccer clubs he would consider a deal with a top flight English team in the future, ideally with a club building a new stadium. Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways and Dubai's Emirates Airline have deals with Arsenal and Manchester City respectively. Both airlines have soccer stadiums named after them.
"We told [the clubs] we will consider - we are not ready for it at the current time," said Mr. Al Baker.
Demand for air travel in Asia is still strong, reflected in the International Air Transport Association's forecast last month that Asian-Pacific carriers would account for two-thirds of meager global airline profits this year. Middle East airlines, backed by oil- rich governments, are also predicted to grow despite the debt crisis in Europe and high oil prices.
Mr. Al Baker said while Qatar is looking at commercial tie-ups with other airlines, it has no need to join one of the world's major airline alliances dominated by national flag carriers in the U.S. and Europe.
"We are too busy with our own expansion and we don't need anymore investment at this difficult time for the aviation business," he said.
Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, chief executive of Malaysian Airline System Bhd, better know as Malaysia Airlines, said Tuesday it would withdraw all nine of its Boeing 747s by November rather than March next year, replacing some these with new Airbus A380 super jumbos on its lucrative route to London. Mr. Yahya said the carrier is interested in Airbus' revamped version of the A330 which would extend the aircraft's range. Malaysia Airlines made a loss last year but aims to make a profit again by 2014 by streamlining its fleet and cutting maintenance costs, Mr Yahya said.
"We can rationalize our fleet - instead of too many different types [of aircraft] the A330 can perform missions up to 12 hours that could very useful for us," said Mr. Yahya.
Write to Alex Delmar-Morgan at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
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