Searching for alternatives to counter the traffic effects of the two-and-a-half-year-old Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, the Gulf state’s national airline has entered talks over an investment of a 49 percent stake in RwandAir, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said Wednesday at the CAPA Qatar Aviation Aeropolitical and Regulatory Summit in Doha.
“In Africa there is a big demand for air travel and today Africa is very poorly connected, so we always look at opportunities in our field to do investments similar to what we have done in the past,” said Al Baker. In December the airline took a 60-percent equity stake in the new Kigali airport, the base of operations for RwandAir. Qatar also plans to sign within the next six months a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement with the European Commission as part of the EU Aviation Strategy for Europe, becoming the first in the region to do so. The agreement will take effect once both internal procedures “including translation in Arabic and 20 European languages are finalized,” said Henrik Hololei, the EU’s director for mobility and transport. The agreement will upgrade the rules and standards for flights between Qatar and the EU and include provisions not normally covered by bilateral air transport agreements, such as social or environmental matters.
Moving beyond traffic rights, the agreement will provide a single set of rules and a platform for future cooperation on aviation issues, such as safety, security, and air traffic management. The agreement also commits both parties to improve on social and labor policies in existing agreements between Qatar and individual EU member states.
The agreement includes a gradual market opening over five years to EU member states that have not yet fully liberalized direct connections for passengers, including Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands.
An independent economic study made by the Commission notes the agreement, with its robust fair competition provisions, could generate economic benefits of nearly €3 billion and create around 2,000 new jobs by 2025.