BY: ADEOLA AJAKAIYE
Qatar Airways has begun operations in the commercial city of Kano, as part of a move geared at strengthening the existing economic tie between Nigeria and the peninsular Arab country.
The launch marked the start of four new weekly flights from Kano and Doha, the capital of Qatar, through Abuja. The flights are scheduled for Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The Kano operations started Wednesday with the landing of a Qatar Airways’ state-of-the-art aircraft, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner at the new terminal of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport to a water-cannon salute at 11:16 a.m. Nigerian time.
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The inaugural flight was piloted into the airport by the Qatari Captain, Mohammed Abdulla, and a Nigerian first officer, Adeola Olamide Ogunmola, from Gwagwalada, which it said was a symbol of the close ties between the two countries.
Hendrik Du Preez, Qatar Airways’ vice president for Africa, said the new route will connect to over 140 destinations across its network, apart from Kano to Doha.
Preez said: “Kano has been a trade and travel hub for hundreds of years. Now, by linking it to the world’s best airport, Hamid International Airport in Doha, we hope to grow traffic between these two important hubs.
“We anticipate particular demand to and from India and other markets. We also expect strong cargo demand. This new service, not only underpins our commitment to Nigeria, but it is also a clear indicator of recovery and expected growth.
“Qatar Airways has stayed steadfast in its commitment to Africa throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It has since increased frequencies and grown its network, considerably improving connectivity to and from the continent and providing passengers with more choice and convenience,” he said.
Preez disclosed that in Nigeria, the airline offered three weekly flights to Abuja via Lagos in November 2020 which grew to four direct flights to Abuja in December 2021.
“In addition to the four weekly flights to Kano via Abuja, we will also start operating three weekly flights to Port Harcourt from Thursday March 3, 2022. This will bring the number of services it operates between Africa and Doha to 188 weekly fights, serving 28 destinations across the continent.
Speaking on the incentives, Preez said Qatar Airways will apply a “flexible booking policy” that offers unlimited changes to travel dates and destinations as well as fee-free refunds for all tickets issued for travel completed by May 31.
“Passengers flying to and from Kano will also benefit from Qatar Airways new baggage allowances, which provide for up to 46kg in Economy class split over two pieces, and 64kg, split over two pieces, in Business Class,” he said, promising safety, security, standard and customer satisfaction.
Speaking through a representative, Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s minister of aviation, said the new flights provide important travel and trade links between Nigeria and the world.
“As the largest economy in Africa, this enhanced global connectivity, through the new Qatar Airways service, will provide a vital network to move goods and people, as we recover from challenges of the pandemic and prioritise growth. Kano and Port Harcourt are both important to this recovery.
“This new service also reinforces the close ties between Nigeria and Qatar, and it paves the way to explore new untapped opportunities,” the minister said.
Yakubu Abdullahi Ahmed, Nigeria’s ambassador to Qatar, said he was happy that Qatar heeded to his request by expanding its airways to Kano, which is the most populous state and commercial nerve centre of northern Nigeria. “This will give me more opportunities of interaction and in carrying out my diplomatic assignment in Qatar,” he added.
Aminu Ado Bayero, the emir of Kano said the launching of the Kano-Doha air services was a trace to history, as he recalled that the first aircraft into Nigeria landed in the Kano airport, which was built in 1922, became operational in 1936 and commissioned in 1942.
The emir said Qatar Airways will connect the country, through Kano, to the outside world and boost economic investment.