Qatar Airways will add Philadelphia to its nonstop routes next year, making the city the carrier's fifth gateway in the United States.
Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker announced new routes on three continents Monday at the opening day of a Middle East travel exhibition in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The airline flies to 126 destinations worldwide from its hub in Doha, the capital of Qatar, which borders Saudi Arabia.
"Philadelphia is one of the major hubs of the soon-to-be merged American Airlines/US Airways and will provide Qatar Airways' customers with onward connections to over 100 cities," Al Baker said in a statement.
For Philadelphia travelers, the route to Doha will provide connections across the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region.
In Philadelphia, US Airways Group has a nonstop daily flight to Tel Aviv, Israel.
Philadelphia International Airport CEO Mark Gale said the city was "very excited" that Qatar, an award-winning, five-star carrier, will start flights March 1. Gale said he expects the flights to be once daily, seven times a week.
Inbound Qatar passengers will have access to the extensive domestic network provided by US Airways and that of the new American Airlines when the carriers merge. With Philadelphia expected to remain a major hub, Gale said, Qatar sees Philadelphia "as a jumping point" to locations the airline serves.
Convenient international air service is "essential" to the region's "economic vitality," Mayor Nutter said, noting the new direct service to Qatar will give businesses "access to a nation that has the world's highest per capita GDP."
On Monday, Qatar Airways also announced new routes between Doha and the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, beginning in September, and to Clark International Airport near Manila, Philippines, starting in October.
Qatar has been expanding flights to Pakistan, and on June 1 will operate 28 flights a week from Doha to Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, and Peshawar, the airline said.
"Qatar is bucking the trend across the industry, demonstrating that we are resilient in times of global economic austerity," Al Baker said. "While others are cutting back, we see the opportunities to expand our global footprint."
Qatar operates 24 flights a week to Doha from New York, Washington, Houston, and Chicago.
The airline's rivals are Persian Gulf carriers Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and Dubai-based Emirates Airlines. All three have been aggressively seeking new markets.
"With the implementation of code-share agreements with American Airlines and JetBlue, which offer numerous connections beyond our U.S. gateways, Qatar Airways is making big strides to strengthen its presence in the United States to ultimately give our passengers greater travel options," Al Baker said.
Qatar said that later this year it will join the OneWorld global alliance, which includes American and others. Worldwide airline partnerships allow customers to buy tickets on one airline and travel via the partners.
Qatar added four new destinations this year, flying to Gassim (Saudi Arabia), Najaf (Iraq), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), and Chicago. The carrier will begin routes to Salalah, Oman (May 22); Basra and Sulaymaniyah, Iraq (June 3 and Aug. 20); and Chengdu, China (Sept. 3).