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Qatar Airways plans next stage of US expansion

The Middle East’s second-biggest airline will start daily flights to Las Vegas in January

Qatar Airways is planning to expand further into the United States, group chief executive Akbar Al Baker said on Friday announcing the Middle East’s second biggest airline would start flights to Las Vegas in January.

The announcement comes just two days after Qatar Airways started direct flights to Atlanta, the hub of US carrier Delta who has lobbied its government against the Doha-based airline.

“We are going to go from January direct from Doha to Las Vegas,” Al Baker told reporters in Dublin for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual meet.

The flight will be operated daily with a Boeing 777-300ER (extended range).

The expansion plans are likely to irk Qatar Airways’ US rivals Delta, American and United who allege the Doha-based carrier violates the open skies agreement with billions of dollars in state subsidies. 

“I don’t care. I'm just following what’s allowed to me under the air services agreement with the United States,” Al Baker said.

Qatar Airways have always denied the allegations against them as have Emirates and Etihad Airways, the Gulf’s two other carriers the US airline's want blocked.

The lobbying campaign, which started in early 2015, has seemingly tempered this year interest loses momentum and public focus switches to elections in the US and elsewhere.

But Al Baker may have reignited it. He accused Delta of violating the air services agreement, telling reporters that Qatar Airways’ inaugural flight to Atlanta was hub obstructed by the US carrier.

The first flight, operated by a one off Airbus A380 service, arrived at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Wednesday to find that a smaller A320 jet was using the gate it needed to disembark passengers.

Passenger were forced to use steps to get off the plane whilst elderly passengers weren't provided with necessary facilities.

Al Baker said Delta, who is the main carrier in Atlanta, “intimidated” employees and companies operating at the airport into obstructing the flight.

“We are there to serve the people of Atlanta. We are not their to clash with Delta,” Al Baker said.

The Qatari executive has previously said the airline was only launching the route to “rub salt in the wounds” of Delta.

On Friday, Al Baker said Qatar Airways would explore its legal options against Delta following the Atlanta incident.

Al Baker also said Qatar Airways would soon launch daily flights to Dublin in Ireland and is considering daily flights to Belfast in Northern Ireland where it would be able to work with International Airlines Group (IAG) subsidiary Aer Lingus. Qatar Airways owns 15.01 per cent of IAG.

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