Qatar Airways kicked off an important year ahead in Russia for both the airline and the State of Qatar with the touchdown of its first daily direct flight to St Petersburg on December 19.
Next year will be a milestone year for Russian-Qatari relations as Qatar Airways sponsors the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the State of Qatar partners with Russia for the 2018 Year of Culture programme, delivered by Qatar Museums.
At a St Petersburg press conference, Qatar Airways group chief executive HE Akbar Al Baker addressed Russian and international media where he conveyed his vision for the airline in Russia and beyond.
“Touching down at Pulkovo International Airport for the first time yesterday was a significant moment for Qatar Airways. This inaugural flight represents so much more than just a new destination on our global network, it carries with it the weight of our hope and expectations for the future of our airline in Russia and the future of our countries’ ongoing friendship and partnership for generations to come.
“As the national carrier of the State of Qatar, we are proud to fly the flag for our country wherever we go. Our presence in Russia will only be strengthened by the launch of this new route as well as by our upcoming sponsorship of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and by the 2018 Qatar-Russia Year of Culture of which we are a huge supporter.”
Al Baker also used the press conference as platform to speak out about the “illegal blockade” against Qatar. He said: “It puts a lot of pressure on both the citizens and the operations of a country when you blockade it – this is unprecedented since St Petersburg was put under siege during the Second World War. This blockade is illegal because the airspace is above a certain flight level and airspace on international waters does not belong to any country. It belongs to the international community.”
Pulkovo Airport CEO Vladimir Yakushev, said: “With the new daily flights to Doha, the Northern capital and the cultural pearl of Russia, has gained an excellent connection to one of the most modern and dynamic global cities.”
St Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city after Moscow with a population of more than five million as of 2017, is increasingly recognised for its contribution to the country’s growing economy as more businesses set up offices and headquarters here. With more than 10 tonnes of belly hold cargo capacity per week to and from St. Petersburg on board the A320 aircraft, which serves this new route, Qatar Airways Cargo is looking further expand its import and export services in Russia. The launch of service to St. Petersburg has increased the overall belly hold cargo capacity to and from Russia, with more than 40 tonnes being transported each way per week.