Qatar Airways is launching scheduled freighter services to Atlanta, Houston and Toronto, the latest expansion in the Gulf Arab carrier’s bid to become one of the world’s biggest air cargo operators within five years.

The 777 freighter flights between Qatar Airways’ Doha home base and the three new North American destinations will be routed via the Luxembourg hub of Cargolux, the European all-cargo carrier in which it acquired a 35 percent stake in June. Atlanta and Houston will be served with twice-weekly flights from November 2, while a weekly Toronto service will start on November 7.

Qatar Airways Cargo’s current North American dedicated freighter operation is limited to Chicago, supported by belly space capacity on daily non-stop passenger flights to Houston, New York and Washington and a thrice- weekly service to Montreal.

“With the recent completion of our 35 percent stake in Cargolux, Europe’s largest cargo airline, we have increased our freighter operations, which ties seamlessly into the airline’s strategy to have as many connecting points across the globe from our Doha hub,” said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker.

“We have identified tremendous route expansion opportunities around the world, including North America where the freighter market is huge.”

Al-Baker said the airline’s dedicated cargo network is an extension of its strategy to develop its global air transport business. In the past few months, Qatar Airways has significantly boosted its cargo operations with increased frequencies to several destinations, including Kuwait and Hanoi.

Extra cargo flights will operate to Chicago, Colombo, Bahrain, Dammam, Hong Kong and Tehran from October 30. In addition, a new cargo service to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, will be launched on the same day.
Qatar Airways Cargo currently has a fleet of three Airbus A300-600s and two Boeing 777 freighters with a further three 777s on order.

The carrier plans to convert 15 of its Airbus A330 passenger aircraft into freighters starting in 2012.

– Contact Bruce Barnard at brucebarnard47@hotmail.com.