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Qatar Airways expects to expand despite crisis

DUBAI, Jan 11 – State-owned Qatar Airways expects to add new destinations and fly more passengers this year despite the global financial crisis that has hit the aviation industry, a company executive said on Sunday.

"We\’re resilient to what\’s happening in the markets," vice president Ali al-Rais told a news conference in Dubai.

"So far we have not been affected and our revenues have been good … we have not seen a drop in future bookings … regional carriers are in better shape than many in other parts of the world."

Airlines around the world have been hit by the slowdown in the global economy, which has prompted consumers to cut spending, including on travel.

However airlines in the Gulf, the world\’s top oil exporting region, are seen as more able to weather the crisis, supported by the region\’s expanding economies and the influx of foreigners.

"Where we\’re geographically located, we are able to redesign our strategy to go where the business is … Asia, the Middle East and Africa will see a growth (in passengers)," Rais said.

The number of passengers flying on Qatar Airways in 2009 is expected to grow between 30 and 35 percent from the 12 million passengers the airline carried last year, he said.

Qatar Airways, which flies to 83 destinations, will start flights to Houston on March 30, Rais added.

The Doha-based company plans to fly to other new hubs in 2009 as part of its plan to reach at least 120 destinations by 2012, he said, declining to be more specific.

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"Our expansion depends on plane deliveries," the executive said. Qatar Airways has been affected by the delay in the delivery of Boeing\’s 787 Dreamliner.

Rais reiterated that the airline, which has yet to receive the revised delivery schedule, is entitled to payment of compensation from Boeing under a clause in the contract in the case of delays.

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