Qatar Airways' 'confidence' in Cardiff Airport route

Qatar Airways aircraft over Doha Image copyright Reuters
Image caption There have been fears current tensions in the region might impact on the new route

Qatar Airways is confident that its new long-haul service from Cardiff Airport will be ready to launch next year.

The airline met Welsh business leaders on Tuesday to outline the benefits of the new route to the capital Doha.

Since the new route was announced, sanctions have been placed on Qatar by its Middle East neighbours.

"We're operating 90% as normal - apart from the four countries affected," said Glen Mintrim, the airline's vice president for northern Europe.

The sanctions include a refusal to allow Qatar Airways flights access to the region's air space which could add hours to journey times.

The country has also been accused of supporting terrorist organisations.

But Mr Mintrim does not anticipate problems.

"Last week we had our Dublin launch which started as planned, it's business as normal - nothing's changed."

But he would not be drawn on the launch date, the frequency or cost of the flights.

Attracting a long-haul route has been one of Cardiff Airport's main ambitions.

It will be a key factor in its target of having two million passengers a year within the next five years.

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Media captionAirport chief executive Deb Barber said it was full steam ahead for the 2018 launch

Airport bosses believe the regular flight to Doha will offer significant business opportunities not only for south Wales but also the south west of England.

Deb Barber, chief executive of Cardiff Airport, said: "It's transformational. It's been a long time part of our strategy to bring direct, long-haul flights to Wales and it's the only region not served at the moment, so there has been a huge gap in the market we have been looking to fill."

Latest figures show that exports from Wales to Qatar amounted to £26m in 2016.

James Bennett, sales and marketing director of Caerphilly-based aircraft parts company AerFin, is looking to more international growth.

"For us, if you look at the Middle East, it's a critical, strategic region," he said.

"It will see 3,500 aircraft deliveries over the course of the next 20 years. We, as a components support provider and lease services and solutions provider, will want to be a part of that growth.

"Anything that enables an easier link with that region will be a positive."

Doha would also be a tourist destination in itself as well as allowing passengers access to a hub that provides flights.

Qatar is one of the richest countries in the Middle East and will host the 2022 World Cup.

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